handspun & naturally dyed: blackberry love

I want to start out this post by saying that this might be one of my favorite yarns I've ever made, and the pictures truly do not do it justice. A couple of weeks ago I started experimenting with solar dyes. I wanted to keep my fiber soft, and removing heat from the equation seemed like a good way to achieve that. Once again, I was surprised and delighted. Natural dyes are the best! 

This particular batch of dyes were made with local blackberries interspersed with the Rambouillet wool in a jar for about 3 days. The water turned this crazy, vibrant purple, but the fiber itself turned pale lavender, with pops of grey and bright purple and even a bit of pink. So wild! I love the patterning in this wool, the areas where the blackberries rested created this beautiful painterly effect in what would have taken many colors to dye chemically. After the fiber had time to dry, I spun it and plied it with a heathered grey eco wool blend. The subtle shifting shades of the blackberry dyed yarn pop out so beautifully against it, and I couldn't be more happy with how it turned out. 

The resulting yarn is drapey and smooth, you'd guess that it was a wool/silk blend, and not the 100% wool that it is! I'm so tempted to keep this skein for myself, but instead I'll hopefully have it listed in the shop sometime tomorrow. 

More solar dyeing is definitely in my future, and gives me a hope for spring during the freezing rain that is hitting North Carolina right now; the last bitter storms of winter that we'll likely see as March quickly approaches. 

natural dyeing: black tea

I think I may be falling hard for natural dyes. When I go to the grocery store, the farmer's market, I think about my menu for the week, and think about the natural dye properties of everything I'll consume that week. My freezer right now is half food, half dye materials (avocado, pomegranate and mushrooms, if you want to know). And on Friday as Brandon and I were in search of a piece of clothing for his Halloween costume, I found myself perusing the tops, looking for cotton or linen or wool that would be suitable to dye. 

I was successful, and brought home a 100% cotton tunic for my next project. Saturday I woke up and mordanted the tunic, an organic cotton dishtowel, and a small linen project bag for a few hours, and then brewed up a vat of black tea. In they went! I've noticed that though the process of taking the dye takes at least an hour, I can tell pretty quickly whether or not the color is going to really take in the materials I've put in the dyepot. Still, the anticipation is so fun as I come back every few minutes to poke the items around and watch the progress. 

After an hour, I took the materials out, let them drip out a bit, and then washed them in my washing machine on cold with a tablespoon of dish soap. And then out on the clothesline!

It's a bit hard to tell from the picture, but the organic cotton dishtowel took the color the best, followed by the project bag and then the tunic, which dried into a soft tan color. And although the tunic and towel were both labeled "100%" cotton, the threads used clearly weren't, and stayed pure white, which was something I didn't even consider. Lesson learned!

Though time-intensive, I loved this day because it embodied what slow fashion means to me in our life right now. Reducing waste by buying second-hand, seeing beauty in an old, stained garment at a store and naturally, organically turning it into something beautiful and functional. I know that my "tea-shirt" is something that I will value and love and wear to threads. And then mend, and keep on wearing. :)

Slow Fashion October is officially over for this year, but I know I'll carry the principles I've been reminded of and the stories and perspectives of everyone who participated with me into this coming year, and for that I'm grateful. If you need something to read during your lunch hour, I encourage you to go check out Karen's round-ups of some of the best of Slow Fashion October on her blog. They're so inspiring! 

natural dyes: mushrooms take 1

Last week I had an unexpected opportunity from a farm nearby, and I came to be the owner of some aged shitake mushrooms. They were past the point that they could be eaten, which would have definitely been my first choice (mushrooms forever), so I thought I'd finallytry my hand at some natural dyeing. Home they came and in the dye pot they went. 

I didn't use a mordant, but did soak the yarn (Moeke yarns Elena) in hot water before dropping in the dye pot. I boiled the mushrooms for about an hour and the water turned this really lovely mahogany color that the photographs didn't quite capture. I was so excited! I put the yarn in the pot at about 170 degrees for around 45 minutes, swirling occasionally, and then let the yarn sit in the pot overnight with the heat off and the lid on. 

My results were less than stellar, to be sure. The yarn basically didn't change color from its original shade, which was crazy with the water color being such a deep brown. It seemed like it had gone down a shade or so towards brown, but it turned out that was just the color change from the wool being wet. Ha! 

The next day I went to my public library and picked out about 6 books on natural dyeing, so I think my future attempts will go much better. This was just a shot-in-the-dark, I-randomly-decided-to-do-this sort of activity (and I have frozen some additional mushrooms to try again later), so I'm not too disappointed. Sometimes it's just fun to try new things and see where it will take you.