Tag Archives: knitting

Natural Dye Workshop Yields Glorious, Colorfast Textiles

Working with natural dyes like cochineal that yield red, indigo blue, wild marigold (pericone) and fustic to give us yellow, is like being a pastry chef and following a recipe.  It helps to know a little chemistry or have a willingness to learn.

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Indigo dye bath percolating

Eric Chavez Santiago, who is one of Mexico’s most knowledgeable natural dye experts and our workshop leader, takes us through the steps to use a non-toxic process to mordant wool that we will  use to dye cochineal, fustic and wild marigold.  Wool that we dye with indigo requires no mordant but another set of intricate steps that will guarantee a result of intense blue and its variations.  See the green bloom in the photo above. The chemistry here is to allow no oxygen to enter the dye bath. Stirring is a no-no.

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The intense colors we get depend on a number of factors, including the original color of the natural wool, the amount of dye for the recipe, the length of time in the dye bath, the number of dips, how little dye is left in the dye bath, and whether we use an acid (lime juice, for example) or a base (baking soda, alum or ashes).  Eric has developed an extraction technique for the cochineal that yields the most intense, concentrated color.  The extract can be saved and refrigerated for later use and then refreshed.

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In the three-day Oaxaca Natural Dye Secrets workshop, we go through the basics and then tackle more advanced dyeing techniques using acids, bases, and over-dyeing.  Over-dyeing is when you first dye your fiber with the base color such as red (cochineal) or yellow (fustic or wild marigold).  The red is then dipped in the indigo dye bath to yield various shades of purple depending on the shade of red.

Next Workshop:  March 6-12, 2014

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This is not a complex process, but requires attention and following the recipes.  By the end of the workshop, participants have color samples with specific formulas/recipes for all the shades from yellow to green to pink to red to orange to purple to blue.

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During the workshop, we also experiment with shibori dye techniques using indigo with 100% cotton fabric.  The resulting pattern depends on how we fold, wrap, package, or tie the fabric.  Some use rubber bands, string, marbles, sticks, and other materials to manipulate the design.

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Everything depends on whether the material is a protein (animal) or cellulose (plant) fiber.  Cochineal only works best with protein fibers that are mordanted in advance.  Indigo is not really a dye but a stain and only coats the surface of the fiber (which you can see through a microscope).  Indigo works well with protein AND cellulose fibers.  And, wow, does it attach to everything it touches!

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Assisting Eric with the workshop is his wife, Elsa Sanchez Diaz.  As his partner in life and this workshop, Elsa takes detailed notes about the formulas that Eric is using so that there is a record of the colors achieved.  She also helps the participants to complete their samplers with tagged formula notes at the end of the workshop.

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Our participants come from Pennsylvania, Virginia, Northern California, and Kansas.  They include novices and experienced fiber artists/dyers.  Several had never been to Oaxaca before.  One is an English professor, another a faculty member in architecture and interior design, another a mixed media artist, and two professional weavers.  Everyone came away with a great experience and more information than they ever dreamed possible.

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Next Workshop: March 6-12, 2014 

If you can’t attend this workshop, let us know!  We can possibly schedule the next workshop to suit your travel schedule.

Omar’s Hat: Spinning and Knitting Hand-Dyed Wool Roving in Oaxaca

Knitting IMHO is a form of weaving, so I fit right into Teotitlan del Valle where weaving is the culture.  Fiber and textile artists tend to experiment with different forms of the art.  But first, a bit about the wool.  This is 100% super wash merino roving with a 23u top that I bought from DTK Knits in Apex, North Carolina.  I love the variegation of color that they achieved and the softness of the wool.

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They hand-painted it and put it out in the sun to dry.  Sun-dried, solar dyed!  The 4 ounces I bought cost $18.00 USD.  I brought several of these types of skeins with me to use for felting projects over the next few months, although I will be dyeing wool roving here, too. As I showed Federico and Dolores my stash yesterday, they ahhed and oohed, and we talked about what it might be like to spin the roving.  I could then knit a hat for Omar and then one for Eric.

First project underway.

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Federico grabbed a bamboo bobbin and attached it to the spinning wheel.  We then separated the roving into strands thin enough to spin, but thick enough so it wouldn’t fall apart.  That took both of us.  Then we were ready to go.

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After the bobbin was full, I put it into a sealed plastic bag with one end open to pull the tail of the thread through.  That way, the bobbin stays intact.

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Next, I made a sample swatch to figure out the gauge or how many stitches to cast on to fit Omar’s head.  Since he wasn’t there, I measured Federico.  This wool knit up at about 3 stitches per inch and Federico’s head measures 23″ so I cast on 74 stitches using a #10-1/2 (or 6-1/2mm) needle.

Omar'sHatKnit-6I knit two inches of length and then decreased four stitches in order for the rim to turn up and show the purl side.  Then, I will continue knitting until I have about 7″ of hat.  Then, using double pointed needles, I’ll begin to decrease every two stitches until there are four stitches left.  Take a crochet hook and pull the yarn through the four stitches and tie off.  Bring the yarn through to the underside and weave it in.

Resources

I buy ecru merino roving to dye from Paradise Fibers.  I order dyed roving online from various Etsy resources like Rachel Jones’ On the Round, who spins and dyes near Portland, Maine.  I met Rachel last summer at a street fair and loved her wool.

And, here’s the start of the hat!  Didn’t it knit up beautifully?  And, P.S. We still have space in the Felted Fashion Workshop here that starts February 2.  Ask me about coming to the one-day dye workshop component, too.

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