(You can click on photos to embiggen)
Oh and I also knit a baby sweater with a hood a few days ago-it took me a full 4 and a half hours to knit and that includes the designing of the pattern and ripping back and reknitting 3 inches...I love big yarn. It's my first finished baby project-I think I have gotten over the whole jinxing thing...try to ignore the giant ball of sari silk...it was a moment of weakness.
My Mom and I have been dyeing with Madder root this evening and it's terribly fun. Mom grows Madder in her garden (incidently my tarantula is named Rose Madder because she is a rose hair tarantula, after my favourite Stephen King Novel of the same name, but I digress...) Madder is purported to make an incredible red and has been used for thousands of years (madder dyed cloth has been found in King Tutankhamun's tomb). I spent a lot of time on the internet trying find out how one is supposed to dye Madder root and discovered that everyone has a different way of doing it and they all think that everyone else doesn't know the proper way.
Working under the theory that ancient peoples doing dyeing might not always used proper scales and measuring techniques (although I am sure that master dyer in some ancient advanced civilizations did use controlled techniques, I doubt the layperson bothered.) I came up with a recipe that was fast and easy.
Step one, we dried the roots on the stove-we then discovered that we didn't need to dry the roots and added fresh roots to the pile.
Step two-chop the roots into little itty bitty pieces. This was annoying with dried roots and hard on the wrists, but incredibly easy with the fresh ones. It occured to me that all the recipes used dried roots because the majority of people don't have fresh ones available. We ended up with the equivalent to 1 oz of dried root.
We added the chopped roots to a pot of hot, but not boiling, water. More than one person said that boiling it can turn the dye brown. We'll have to try boiling it on purpose sometime to see what shade of brown-wouldn't it be wonderful to get a rich mahogany?
Below is a picture of the pot of water immediately after the roots are added. Literally, I added the roots, picked up the camera and took a picture. Look how red it is!!!
We then crushed 30gms of calcium carbonate (aka Tums) and added it to the root bath. The calcium carbonate ensures you get a true red rather than an orange red. It also imparts a nice minty flavour. Below is the dye bath with Tums.
Next step (and I didn't get a picture) was to mordant the wool. We did this by adding 50 gms of alum (maybe 2 tbsp)and 1 tsp of cream of tartar (both avaiable in the grocery store in the pickling section-you can sometimes find alum at the pharmacy) to a pot of warm water, stirred until it was dissolved and added 75gms of superwash wool top and a skein of homespun shetland (maybe 75gms)
After the wool had been in the mordant for half an hour and the dye bath had been cooking for about an hour and half (at very low heat on the woodstove, perhaps the equivalent to low on a slowcooker) I could handle the suspense no more and took a sliver of rinsed, mordanted wool and added it to the dye bath for half and hour and ended up with this gem.
The colour is amazing and the camera adds more of an orangey tone than is actually there. I would describe it as raspberry.
So unable to handle it any longer I rinsed the mordanted wool while mom strained the dye bath (no spinner wants to pick out a billion bits of wood and bark while spinning) and tossed in the wool.
This was a little anticlimactic as we had prepared enough dyebbath for 75gms of fibre and on a whim added the Shetland.
The result so far seems to be a variegated coral-yellow colour with little difference to the shetland. We'll leave it over night so it sucks up as much of the dye as possible and see what the resultant colour is. Meanwhile, there is a whole 'nother pot of madder root (even more than the first batch) sitting on the warm stove waiting for tomorrow.
So far the experriment has been SUPER succesful. The only thing keeping the wool from being a rich raspberry is the volume of wool versus dye. It was super easy to do and with enough root will produce colours as bright as commerical dyes.
By the way you don't need to use heat at all with madder. You can soak the roots for 24 hours and mordant overnight or for a few hours, and then have it sit in the dye bath until the dye is exhausted and you have the colour you choose. This method makes a dye product (protein fibres only) in a couple of hours-I'm impatient.
Later this week, dyeing with walnut shells and possibly making ramie from nettles.