Study for Meditation Mat

Study for Meditation Mat
Handspun Tapestry Weaving

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Fields of Gold

Richard brought me a large paper sack of dried marigold heads last week to use as dye.  I spent the weekend dyeing yarn samples and 500 grams of a merino/tencel top from Golden Willow. 

I stuffed the panty part of a pair of nylon hose with the flowers, then put the bundle in a pot to cook out for the day.  (Mr. DD says the smell reminds him of corn on the cob cooking; I find it a little more pungent.)  I then added 15 ml. of aluminium potassium sulphate from the grocery store, along with sample skeins of merino yarns I use as cautionary tales--"what to avoid when spinning."  I brought the concoction to just below boiling point, simmered the dye bath for about 30 minutes, then turned the heat off and let the bath cool over night.  After thorough washing and rinsing, this is the colour in the yarns:

Next up was the merino/tencel.  I added 50 copper pennies to the pot, along with 100 grams of the top and followed the same dyeing procedure as I did with the yarns.  The colour is deep and rich; the tencel makes the top glow.  That sample is on the left in the photo below:

Last up was 400 grams of dry merino/tencel, which I chained loosely before I added to the dye pot.  It's difficult to see in the photograph above, but there are subtle colour shifts where the fibre was chained, although the top is dyed throughout.  This is my favourite of the batch; it looks like fine gold thread and I look forward to spinning it.

Most dyestuffs are not substantive; that is, their colours are not permanent without a fixative.  Dyes require mordants to fix their colours to the fibres, but many mordants are toxic and I do my best to avoid them.  Kitchen alum, bits of copper, cast iron pots, brass fittings, along with vinegar give me a good range of colours which have lasted for years of use, washing and some exposure to light.  Besides, it's fun experimenting with what's available around the house.

No matter what dye is used, it's important to follow safe dyeing procedures.  I use separate dye pots and utensils, and keep the fan hood over the stove going while the dyes cook out.  I wear rubber gloves and a mask while I'm working directly with dye powders or mordants.  When the weather is nice, I use the barbecue as my heat source or solar dye when the summer temperatures are in the high 20's and 30's Celsius range.

Now it's fall and the colours I've obtained from the marigolds remind me of the autumn foliage around the neighbourhood and the local parks:


  1. beauitful colours! and good cautionary advice about dyeing....

  2. Thanks, Robyn! Yes, it's hardly worth dying over dyeing, so people need to take care.

  3. It took me a few moments to figure out what you meant by "cautionary tales". Then I embiggened the picture and understood ;) The colors are just gorgeous, especially that merino/tencel! Did Richard dry the marigolds himself?

  4. He did. I think he was a bit skeptical when I asked him to collect them, but I showed off the colours last night at spinning class and he was impressed. (Click on his name to see his "World's Longest Sampler," if you haven't seen it.)
    I think those yarns would make passable fabric if I knit them up, but they certainly show some of the problems you can have when you are spinning. (Well, not you, perhaps!)

  5. I did click on his name. That's wonderful!

    I produced my fair share of yarns that looked like that. Still have them here somewhere. I was better at spinning singles than at plying when I was learning.

  6. The color after you added the copper pennies is beautiful!! Love it and would enjoy the process of knitting it.
    Do dyers ever add vinegar to set colors? That's what I use when setting colors when washing material and floss for the first time after smocking.

  7. Yes, dyers use vinegar when setting synthetic acid dyes. It also acts as a mordant with the natural dyes, although some dyes set better than others. Adding salt to the bath helps.