Two days later, and it was time to get dyeing. It's a lengthy process, requiring each natural dye to be simmered for an hour, then strained and reheated before adding the wool for another hour. I'd separated my wool into 13g skeins, hoping I'd have enough to try each one of the natural dyes on offer, with a couple left over for the acid dyes and indigo. And so it was. At the allotted time, our skeins were dropped into the steaming vats and we waited impatiently to see whether the colour had taken. Everyone had brought different combinations of wools and both alum and tin had been used as mordants, so the range of hues produced from the same solution was astonishing.
Six hours later, and I was returning home with the skeins in the picture, the dyes being (left to right):
blackcurrant (complete with seeds!)
onion skin exhaust
I don't know when I'll be trying this again, but I'm certainly not afraid of the process any more. I'm very taken with the cochineal, logwood and onion skin dyes, and whilst I love the indigo, I know its preparation is a bit more complicated (requiring hydros, caustic soda and careful reduction).
So. Yes. Dyeing. There we have it. This is what I learned:
- It's nothing to be afraid of, as long as you weigh everything and use the correct percentages of mordant and dye.
- Using natural dyes takes time as you need to make sure the solutions come up to temperature and that you don't shock the wool.
- Acid dyes are easy to use, as they're set in the microwave, and the results are vibrant.