Posts Tagged ‘logwood’

I Dye

April 25, 2009

*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…

1. Scouring

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.

2. Pre-mordanting

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).

3. Dyeing

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?

Day #6…Half way there!

January 2, 2009

Ok folks, this is getting difficult.  I knew I didn’t have twelve finished products to share with you, but I forged on with the charade.  So now begins the I-must-atone-for-my-lies-and-show-you-the-myriad-of-ongoing-projects-I-have-which-illustrate-my-inability-to-commit portion of… Twelve Days of Non-Denominational blah blah blah.

I would actually have a great FO to show you had the yarn not completely betrayed me.

Here sits my completely knitted, seamed and otherwise lovely Phildar Meshy Sweater.

It sits soaking in a bucket, anxiously awaiting either its death or ascension to glory at the hands of this first-time dyer.  You will notice that even while it sits in a large bucket of water, it is comprised of two distinct colors–a very light grey and a darker grey-blue.

This was unintentional and not completely my fault.  The yarn I used is Rowan Purelife in Logwood–for the entire sweater, but from two different sources.  In my research, I have found that logwood is very prone to fade and rub off, and natural dyes in general can produce extremely different results in different dye lots.  I still believe the yarn itself is fantastic, I just caution all of you organic knitters out there to buy all the yarn you think you’ll need at once, from the same dye lot.

Because if not, you must delve deeply into the world of natural dyeing in order to fix your beautifully knitted sweater that now looks like a colorblock 80s mess.  I’ll give you full documentation of my dyeing endeavor once it’s completed, but let me tell you–it’s not what I thought it would be.  Dyers will laugh, but I seriously thought I’d just squirt some color into a bucket of water and stick my sweater in it for an hour or so.  But no no no.  I have to scour, then pre-mordant, and then dye.  I have no measuring implements, so it will be improvised.

I’m fully prepared for my sweater to die.  from the dyeing.

Possibly in memoriam, I wish to say that this sweater became kind of annoying to knit.  Quite a bit of knitting through back loops and the excitement of dropping stitches doesn’t come until the end.  That being said, I really am happy with the design, fit, and shape.  It’s very cool and…I think I’m realizing that I may shed tears if I kill my sweater.

The only thing that was a real problem was the sleeves.  According to my non-French-speaking translation of this French pattern, the sleeves are given no shape whatsoever–I mean no armhole shaping at all, just tubes of sleeve.  It looks surprisingly nice on, but when I followed the pattern exactly, the armholes were too small.  My fix was to still drop the appropriate stitches at the end, but pick them up again after creating the ladders and knit a couple of more rows–so no stitches were lost and the armholes would be almost twice as large.  They’re still a little tight, but fit decently.

I’m hoping to get to dyeing this week, so I’ll report back.

Let’s cross our fingers for a real FO, rather than a eulogy.

See you Monday for Day #7!