I have put my blog on hold for a couple of years now due to illness – however I have been very busy “behind the scenes” and would like to continue to share with you how I have been working with and using the natural dyes I grow in my dye garden and hopefully inspire you to try the methods yourself or encourage you to share your experiences and experiments with us.
AFRICAN MARIGOLDS It’s been such a gorgeous late summer and early autumn so this past week or so I have been gathering in the beautiful heads of the African marigolds. The African marigold (Tagetes erecta L) is a major source of caretonoids and lutin. I have experimented on cotton, silk, and wool to test for the colour yielded – with and without a mordant, producing beautiful yellows and olive greens.
SCOUR Before beginning the dyeing process ensure that the material being used is carefully scoured and then soaked in clean water for at least an hour before mordanting or dyeing. It is important to ensure that the fibre is thoroughly clean – otherwise, mordants and dyes will not adhere to the fibre. More details on scouring on my main dyeing-crafts page.
MORDANT After scouring and soaking, enter the material to be dyed in a stainless steel bucket with the mordant and gently bring to a simmer and hold there for an hour. Turn off the heat and leave to cool for another hour. – stirring occasionally to ensure even absorption of the mordant. When dyeing wool, stir very gently otherwise you may cause the wool to felt. When dyeing silk do not raise the temperature above 80 degrees C as it will damage silk fibres and spoil the sheen.When cool enough to handle rinse several times in tepid water until the water runs clear. At this stage you can either use the material straight away or let it dry to use at another time. There are probably several recipes available for mordanting out there but the one I use with great success is:- For every 100g of wool or silk to be dyed dissolve 20g of aluminium potassium sulphate in hot water and add it to the water in the stainless steel bucket as above. When I am dyeing wool I often add 5 – 10 g of cream of tartar. This is optional. Cream of tartar brightens many colours but can inhibit the development of some shades. Mordanting cotton is different and I cover this process in more detail on the main dyeing crafts page on the HOW TO drop-down bar.
To dry the flower heads place them in the sun/warm place turning them occasionally until crisp. I take the petals off the flower heads halfway through the drying process and give them a final dry in the dehydrator before I store them for use throughout the year. They can be stored in a cool dark place for a year or more.
Now the prep is complete – it’s time to dye.
For the samples below I used 100g of dried marigolds to 100g WOG and the dye bath was still strong enough to use again albeit I would achieve paler shade but non the less still very attractive.
Cover the dried flower petals with warm water using a stainless steel bucket and let them soak overnight – mash them a couple of times to release some of the pigment. The next day slowly raise the temperature to 80 degrees C – and maintain that temperature for about an hour. Allow to cool then strain off the flower petals through muslin. This is your dye bath and is ready to use. Recently I have been using straining bags to contain the dye material which I feel works very well and is less messy. Just give the bags a gently prod and stir from time to time. The bags are reusable for several sessions.
Whilst preparing the dye bath soak the mordanted yarn or fibre in another vessel for a few hours before before placing in the dye bath. Make sure the fibre is fully submerged in the dye bath with some room for movement – to allow for even distribution of colour. Bring gently to a simmer for 1 hour and then watch carefully until the desired shade is achieved. When you are happy with the colour turn off the heat and remove the material from the dye bath. If you leave the fibre too long in the dye bath you could introduce brown tones – which you may or may not want. Rinse several times in tepid water and finally wash in a pH neutral soap. (I use soapwort). If you have dyed yarn or fleece do not use extremes of temperature during this process and do not agitate. Dry out of direct sunlight.
The pH of the water and soap when washing and rinsing the material is important as a the acidity or alkalinity used will affect the colour – causing a colour shift which you may not want. Neutral (pH 7) should be used if possible.