*This post is a draft from a hundred years ago…but it may have some value for others that foolishly do not buy their yarn from a single dye lot*
Well, my friends, it’s finally finished, my Phildar meshy sweater, made with Rowan Purelife Organic Cotton in Logwood. I dyed it (using Logwood natural dye) and did not kill it. It’s soul is hardened, but it is better for it. Actually in reality, it’s not nearly as soft as it used to be. But it kind of went through hell, so I can’t blame it. I hope that it will soften with wearing and eventually trust me again as a loving owner.
So, I said I would report on the dyeing process and I will.
I had to do quite a bit of research and found some great online resources, mostly through Ravelry, and I also relied on some instruction sheets from the shop I bought my dyestuffs from, Griffin Dyeworks.
So I’ll try my best and share my process in using logwood to dye a cotton sweater–natural dyeing seems to have a different process than conventional dyeing and cellulose fibers (cotton, linen, hemp, etc) have different prep and requirements than protein fibers (wool, alpaca, anything from an animal).
There are three important steps in the natural dyeing process, which I’ll go over…
This was not something I was aware would be necessary until I read on a Ravelry forum that cotton yarns are very particular. If not dyed properly it can be difficult to get bright vibrant colors–especially with logwood (which apparently has been known to fade and rub off pretty quickly). Apparently cotton yarns come to us with quite a bit of waxy residue, which was very clear to me when I dunked my sweater in some plain old water and soaked it for a bit (in a vain hope that the dye was crappy enough to even out if just soaked) and the water was completely brown. So in order to remove the residue so the cotton can take dye better, it must be scoured. I got this scour mess (powder detergenty stuff) from Hillcreek Fiber Studio and followed some simple directions using a big enamel pot on my stove: 5% scour to the weight of the fiber, simmer for half an hour, and then thoroughly rinse.
The next step is this thing called mordanting, which *I think* is necessary for natural dyeing only (?) to prepare the fiber for taking the natural dye. Different mordants are used for different dyes, different fibers and to get different colors with certain dyes (like using iron for darker colors). There’s a good table here, showing the different outcomes with different dyes using different mordants. It can also be done two different ways–mordanting before dyeing or mordanting and dyeing at the same time. I did the former.
So of course, cotton also requires a different mordant than protein fibers: aluminum acetate. There’s a great blog post on the different mordanting methods for cotton here.
This was also really easy, basically following some simple directions for the alum acetate method: using 5% mordant to the weight of the fiber (or 4 Tablespoons for 1 pound), dissolve the alum acetate in boiling water. Simmer for an hour (longer is fine, too), drain water and do not rinse (though some would argue that you should rinse…I did not).
The most exciting step is the actual dyeing. I used logwood extract, which is a finely powdered dye concentrate. Logwood is a bark that would require a more intensive preparation than I was willing to do and the extract seemed like a perfect lazyish solution. I don’t remember exactly how much dye I used, but it was a very small amount–maybe a teaspoon of dye in total. The kit I bought from Griffin Dyeworks came with an instruction book, and I would imagine any dye you bought would also come with specific instructions. It followed the same general process of dissolving the dye in a bunch of boiling water and then soaking the fiber for a while.
One interesting thing was the addition of soda ash to the dye. If you look at the first picture the dye is a reddish purple and in the second it’s a dark bluish purple…it was like magic–it just turned the instant the soda ash hit the dye bath.
The rest needs no explanation.
A 4th obvious step of Rinsing
And finally, Drying
I may have to find a good method of softening this up again…conditioner maybe?