Tag Archives: dyeing

Dyeing the rainbow

Our annual dyeing picnic this year featured rainbow dyeing:

and was brilliantly organised (as usual). Some of the dye materials were rather appetising, like these blackberries

some less so – these are oak galls:

As always, the results were fascinating in the way different skeins, different fleeces took up the dyes, and in the different results everyone produced.

Below is a gallery of the day’s work; as normal just click on an image for a slideshow. Huge thanks to Jean for running the day, to Ann for the hospitality and to Susan for taking the pictures. There are some more which she put up on our Facebook page, too.


Dyeing with leaves (and all sorts of weather)

The dyeing picnic this year was – um – let’s just say that we had every sort of weather possible except snow and thunderstorms. It really didn’t look promising at the start,


as a few intrepid dyers gathered under the gazebo (the slightly less intrepid sheltered in the house for a bit). Our theme this year was dyeing with leaves, and there was a selection of leaves and a few prepared extracts for us to play with:

dye materials

Many had to be chopped, and soon we were all busy either chopping

chop chop

or attempting to shelter the stoves from the wind, which was blowing a hooley and seemed determined to blow out the gas burners. It did not win!

Yarn was soaking and soon the first dyepots were on: gorse with a copper solution, tansy with no mordant (and no picture, either) and fuchsia with vinegar as a modifier:

They were followed by privet with copper, blackberry leaves with alum, dock with copper, birch with alum, birch with copper, and finally, comfrey with copper and iron, from solution. We also had some crack willow in solution.

There were signs that the weather was improving and, dyebaths bubbling nicely, we broke for lunch. Lunch and the meringues from heaven:


They’re traditional, honestly. You can’t dye anything at all without meringues. Really.

So what did we get, apart from sticky hands? The weather had indeed improved enormously; the sun came out, waterproofs could be dscarded, and though the wind hadn’t dropped, it did perform one very useful function: drying our skeins really quickly!

a few skeins

The pink, incidentally, is the fuchsia, and those are handspun skeins. Below are some commercially spun ones, which took the dyes differently (more thoroughly, generally, which is probably down to commercial scouring – but fuchsia here turned out khaki).


It was a lovely day, weather or no weather. Here are some more images.

Thanks to Ann for her hospitality, and to Jean for the workshop, for all the hard work and the inspiration.

Yellow and blue make a whole range of greens

Our July meeting is always notable – it’s the dyeing picnic, when we get together with a whole load of pots and pans and buckets and plastic bags full of dyestuff and skeins and – well, that’s the general picture. And it’s fun. Huge amounts of fun.

This year the theme was ‘yellow and blue make green’. There were various things which would produce yellows – tansy, onion skins, gorse flowers,

gorse flowersmeadowsweet, willow leaves, heather tips, carrot tops, St John’s Wort and even some begonia flowers – and the aim was to dye our skeins in those and then, after lunch, overdye them in an indigo bath.

We mordanted our skeins first, and soon we were producing a good selection of yellows. Some people decided to do space dyeing, putting only parts of their skeins into the dyebath,  while others opted for dyeing the whole skein.

IMG_3112The skeins were rinsed off, and here you can see a good range of yellows:

yellowsand then we broke for lunch.

I know it’s not strictly dyeing as such, but the plate lunch is such an enjoyable part of the dyeing picnic, that we have to have a full-size pic:

puddings!And when we’d recovered from that lot, we went back outside for part 2.

The indigo bath.

skeins going into indigo

It’s quite fiddly, using an indigo bath when there are so many people involved. But we all understand the need not to disturb the water and thus oxidise the dyebath. In the words of Jenny Dean in Wild Colour, ‘It is crucial not to stir or agitate the vat, or to allow the fibres to drip into the vat. Oxygen will be introduced in this way, and the effectiveness of the vat will be reduced, eventually becoming useless’. We became much more hushed and noticeably calm and gentle around the indigo vat.

The magic of the colour as you gently slide a skein out and see the it change is always enthralling.

Coming out of the vatIt goes blue as the oxygen hits it…

skeins dryingand because our skeins were yellow and being overdyed, we got some fabulous greens:

greensQuite magical.

Here’s a gallery of the day; just click on an image for a slideshow as usual. You’ll notice that some people chose not to overdye all of their skeins, and that others had multi-coloured skeins or, in one case, some fabric samples. Typical of the variety we get at the dyeing picnic. Such a shame that it’s a whole year until the next one!

(The burnt orange of some of those skeins on the drying rack was from some astonishingly effective onion skins. Amazing!)


Bags of – well, bags

This month’s meeting was a show and tell, with a theme of bags. We’ve had some great show and tells in the past – on, for instance, rugs and shawls – and there are always things to find out, whether that’s a new technique or an inspiring way of using colour.

Members brought along a wide range of bags, woven, knitted, crocheted, felted, embellished:

felted bagand quite a few (like this one) had handles made on an inkle loom – fascinating to see, after our workshop last month.

This bag was knitted – and the straps woven – using wool from our annual dyeing picnics (the bright blue was a Kemtex dye; the others are all natural dyes).

knitted bag 1

One of the things about the dyeing picnics is that you end up with a relatively small amount of a whole load of samples. Using them in domino knitting is a great solution.

Two people brought bags which had been knitted and then felted in the washing machine:
bag lotThe bag at the back is another one using bits from the dyeing days, supplemented with some home dyeing; it has faded a lot, as many natural dyes tend to do. The striped one to the right is an iPad case, knitted in Noro Kureyon and felted repeatedly until it reached the right size. The one at the front was embroidered before felting, and shows another strap treatment: knitted and also washing-machine felted. These need lining, as they can stretch.

Another illustrated one advantage of bags: they can easily be created from a garment that just didn’t:

bag 3This bag is the perfect size for carrying a pattern book and knitting!

One thing that came out clearly as we looked at the range of bags was the use of lining. Some people hadn’t lined their bags, but most had. Lining a knitted bag can be a rather improvised experience, as there has to be enough flexibility in the lining to allow for the elasticity of the knitting – and that’s true even of some of the bags which had been felted in the machine.

Buttons gave some of the bags a real zing. Here are three examples to finish with. The first, knitted in a commercial super-chunky, shows how button choice can really emphasise a great yarn choice:


Next, a beautiful button echoing the delicate colours of one of the washing-machine felted bags:

delicateThis came from one of our members who is moving away – best wishes! – but will happily be near another Welsh Guild. She goes to the States a lot, and the wool (handspun) was dyed with Kool-Aid.

Now for a small bag, with a little seashell button:

bag and buttonA really varied and interesting selection – thanks to all members who brought their bags along for us to look at (and – of course – examine closely). Inspiring!

A day to dye for (sorry)…

Thursday saw our annual dyeing picnic at a cottage belonging to one of our members, and it also saw one of the hottest days of the year. It’s always a day to look forward to, and the weather just made it even more enjoyable – in fact, if anything it was too hot (shush). But we were there to do some serious dyeing, not sunbathe:

what to do

This year we were space dyeing, and it was all planned out – as you can see, all natural dyes. Having the list was wonderful; every so often, when we lost track of where we were or wondered how we had produced a particular combination, we only had to look up.

For those of us who hadn’t tried space dyeing before, or who had only done half-and-half dips, first came a very clear explanation of how to dip in thirds – which most of us would have got wrong had we done it instinctively. Then we wetted the skeins we had brought with us and the dyeing began.

One of the first pots ready was the weld, which rapidly began to produce a rather startling yellow (and an even more startling smell),

weldIt’s always good to start with a really impressive colour change, and soon the other dyepots were bubbling away.

We were also trying different modifiers, like washing soda

washing sodaand a copper and ammonia mixture in old sweet jars, which looked rather like Cousin It from The Addams Family once all our skeins were dangling in the even more vile-smelling liquid:

Cu ammoniaOne of the more unusual dyebaths was the lichen in ammonia. The winter’s storms, which were so bad around us – hurricane force winds on more than one day – had an unexpected benefit, in that a lot of the trees which came down had abundant lichens, and some could be harvested legitimately as a result.

lichen dyebathThese skeins have (mostly) been in the madder + iron dye, and then in the corn marigold bath.

All our skeins were gradually finished and hung up to dry off, which they did very quickly indeed in the warmth and sun; there was even a helpful breeze. Perfect weather for dyeing.

We don’t all dye; quite a few of our members bring their knitting and come for the enjoyment of the day. Everyone gathered round, however, to see the finished skeins spread out (the pink, by the way, is cochineal – with an alum mordant you get lilac, but without one, it’s pretty pink):

skeinsHuge thanks to our two members who starred on the day – one for lending us the space, and one for lending us her experience and leading us through the processes.

There is always so much to take in, and we don’t always get a good luck at other people’s work. So here’s a quick gallery / slideshow – just (as usual) click on an image to access the slideshow.


Summer dyeing

Our annual dyeing picnic always seems to mean the beginning of summer proper, though the weather sometimes fails to realise this. Last week, though, we had an exception: a dyeing picnic in lovely weather, though – and this seems astonishing in view of the recent heatwave – the wind got distinctly chilly towards the end of the day. Whatever the weather, and wherever we are, the scenery is always stunning, mind:


Once we’d finished admiring the view from Rachel’s cottage, we got stuck in – and massive thanks to Rachel for stepping in with such a good alternative venue at such short notice. We missed Ann and our usual seaside location, but Rachel’s made a fantastic last-minute substitute. Rachel – happily – also has a great conservatory where we were able to sit out of the wind while we prepared the two fresh dyestuffs (ivy and privet leaves),

supervisor sheep

under watchful wooly supervision, of course!

This year the theme was dyestuffs from trees and shrubs, mostly garnered from our gardens and woods, but with some from elsewhere: logwood – wood chips and prepared dye – and ‘persian berries’, actually a type of Turkish blackthorn. Most of the dyes had been, er, maturing in various sheds and outbuildings – probably just as well they hadn’t been indoors, as some had acquired a distinct personality in the process.

walnut simmer

Probably the worst in terms of smell once we began tipping dyestuff into pots was the walnut (the hulls had been steeping for two months and it was bad enough even before it was heated up), but the worst looking was undoubtedly the eucalyptus.

stew or chocolate?

This is the exhaust, by the way – the one in the pan. One of our members said it reminded her of Irish stew at which point you could see people mentally declining supper invitations, though somebody else did say it looked like chocolate which was possibly even more worrying.


But it dyed beautifully, so who cares?

hubble bubble

We alum-mordanted directly into most of the dyepots, and an iron modifier was added to a few (from a jar containing rusty nails in water).

So what did we have to play with? Well, there were fresh willow leaves and old willow bark strippings, blackthorn twigs, walnut hulls, eucalyptus, logwood chippings and logwood powder,


sumach bark, the ivy and privet leaves, yew, persian berries, and some sloes which we didn’t quite get round to using. Many, like the walnut husks, had been in preparation for months: the willow strippings, for instance. The willows had been coppiced last autumn, and the coppiced twigs had lain under a hedge for ages.

It was impressive drying weather, and our first skeins and hanks of fibre were ready very quickly. Soon the airer was loaded with wool,


and, as usual, the variety was staggering; we had three new or newish members, and they were particularly impressed with the sheer range of colours. So much depends on the materials, and not just on the fibre – the test skeins, prepared much lower down the hills, were one colour and the ones from up at Rachel’s were utterly different, something in all likelihood down to the different water (that from higher up being quite heavily chlorinated). Some commercial yarn, a 4-ply specifically supplied for dyeing, gave some of the brightest results,


but everything was delicious, especially some of the fibre. And lunch – thank you, everyone.

And a huge, huge thank you to Rachel and her husband for inviting us to invade them for the day (and very best wishes to all those who, for whatever reason, were unable to make it; and another hello to our new members)!

What a busy year….

Well, we’ve had our AGM, got next year’s meetings sorted out (a summary is at the end) and stuffed our faces with the ‘everyone bring a dish’ lunch. So now we can get on with Christmas (agh) and maybe with seasonal weather – the temperature is dropping. Time, then, for a quick look at what we’ve been up to in 2012.

There were the usual ways of enjoying ourselves in good company,


both at the monthly meetings and at the Sunday get-togethers:


We had an excellent spinning-wheel surgery with Woodland Turnery in March, which saved at least one wheel from being transformed into firewood:

just do this

and April saw an expedition to an extremely cold Wonderwool Wales. The animals were much warmer than we were, but we consoled ourselves with lots of lovely wool.


In the summer we learned about split-ply braiding and many people perfected their skills or discovered ones they didn’t know they had,


and then came our traditional celebration, the wonderful summer dyeing picnic.

Some members brought along items they had created using all the little skeins produced over several picnics:


we use natural dyes, so they do tend to harmonise. Even if they start off extremely bright,


particularly like the turmeric-dyed yellow skeins here, they do calm down.

In September, some of us spun in public at Fron Goch Garden Centre:


and our last workshop of the year taught us about circular and semi-circular peg-loom weaving.

peg loom stuff

So what does the next year hold?

Well, the first meeting is a general one, on 24th January, and there are more of those throughout the year. In February, one of our members will be sharing her amazing tatting skills, and in May another will be helping us make gorgeous felt slippers – she brought some along to show us and immediately found herself roped into a workshop. In March Wingham Wools will be visiting us for a sampling day, open to all, and a huge amount of fun (start saving now). July will see the dyeing picnic (theme: dyes from wood) and in August Fiona Nisbett will be leading an advanced spinning workshop. We all really enjoyed her last one, on silk spinning, and were very keen to invite her to return. September is our annual show and tell, and Christmas decorations are scheduled for October. Full details will appear in the sidebar, ASAP.

In the meanwhile, keep spinning, weaving, dyeing, knitting, crocheting, tatting, peg-looming, split-ply braiding…


One final note: we sadly lost some members this year. In the memory of one of them, the Rita Walker Memorial Cup was presented to Eirian for the red-and-white scarf and hat she made from 100g of fibre, and another supplemental cup was awarded to Bet for producing something Rita would have particularly enjoyed (made from the same quantity of wool): a white dog.