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Life Interrupted By Dementia

2 Dec

I don’t post my finished product much to this blog. I tend to focus on “the process” but here is an exception. Much gratitude to Linda Haddock at EchoInJohnsonCity for her generosity in creating a salute to Dementia Awareness Month. My natural dye block woven rug which she purchased via the Hill Country Science Mill Auction is featured in her store.

A brief tour of the Echo Art Front Board

Madder Solar Run #1 Recap

21 May

For a first run at madder solar color things were not bad….I got the orange and reddish oranges but no deep red.  But the good news is there is more madder to experiment with.  Let me be clear, I am very happy with the range I got from my skeins in the first round.  There was a disappointment.  Although I had flame tested a fiber, it tricked me into thinking it was silk.  I used this yarn in the first pull of color expecting glorious deep color, the wet skeins promised it.  The earlier madder harvest & prep journey is posted here.


But after rinsing and drying the color was much paler than expected.  Both the 3 year and 6 year first solar dye pull yielded exactly the same pale color.  Beautiful, but not what the pot promised.


I think the substrate I thought was silk was really rayon.  Why?  Remember that I had set aside the first soak/rinse water that had the tannins from the bark in it?  Frugal dyer that I am, I had the same substrate skein set aside that was a Hopi Sunflower color fail.  In other words, the seeds were so old, my dye skein appeared a faint beige.  So it begged to be over dyed.  What better candidate for over dyeing?  Below left is what tannin yielded.  It is the left hand skein in the photo below….deeper and more vibrant color.  The rayon (cellulose fiber) used the tannin in the roots and the seeds as a mordant that allowed it to grab more color.  Sigh, I am going to set aside all the prepped skeins that I MORDANTED with alum sulfate and redo them with alum acetate in order to get the color to strike the rayon.  OR alternatively, I can just hold on to these skeins and use them for indigo and persimmon dips, those substative dyes know no substrate boundaries.


Well, the dye pot still had exhaust in it and I still had the roots at hand.  So I combined the roots and simmered them again on a heat source (skipping the solar part) and put in some KNOWN wool to see what color would yield.  The wool gave hope that color was still available for use and that future pots promised a better future.  The tiny skein below the wool was a sample skein that I mordanted again to check I had not perhaps forgotten to mordant the skeins.  It rode alongside the wool in the depot.  Nope, color still would not strike.  Rayon, Deb, accept it!


Since I had two healthy exhaust pots left after this run I looked around for some likely candidates for over dyeing since my prepped silk skeins were impostors.  I had some small silk skeins of different dyestuff that begged to be over dyed.

If I were a perfect dyer photographer the labels would read clearly.  But in summary I over dyed a series of tannin based beiges.  Sorry,  in no particular order these skeins were Lichen pulled with DNA, Water soaked oak gall, Lichen pulled with soda ash, green persimmon, lichen extracted with ammonia, Oak bark in water soak, and acorn exhaust.  All of these combined will make a great drall scarf.  I have plenty of color choices to combine.

So, in summary, the color extracted beautifully from the roots in the solar dye.  The next round will be a heat pull to compare the 3 and 6 year roots.  At this point the colors I got between the 3 year and 6 year madder root were not that different but because of the substrate snafu, I am holding judgement until I complete another color run.


Don’t let mold keep you from your color!

16 Apr

Upon occasion holding temps outside hit a range when mold will grow. My batch of 6 year first rinse developed a nice mold coating over the past week before I could get to it.Of course you can strain or float the mold head so you can pour off the dyestock. Below I am pouring off and floating the mold. You can pull it off with a rag or let a filter capture it. Purely personal choice…..and your yuck tolerance level.

The color on the right below is what the 6 year madder 1st rinse that had the mold growth yielded on my wool. The middle skein is a disappointment, more on that substratein another entry. The white skein on the left was just added. All three are going back into the 6 year exhaust pot to see what color shows up. 

Besides the disappointing yarn, I have some tannin silks to show, here’s a preview of the colors that were overdyed. What do you think madder root did to these colors?  

Ferrous Sulfate Printing with Natural Dye

3 Aug

My shoulder surgery therapy has moved to strengthening (1-2# weights). Things are moving in the right direction. In the meantime I am trying to explore areas that I can maybe use on painted warps in the future. Hopefully giving my shoulder time to calm down from the weight exercises.

Today I am venturing into screen printing with natural dyes. I’ve learned from Michel Garcia and Catherine Ellis about using the iron modifier in your thickener to screen print THEN run your natural dye bath. So, I mixed my guar gum and created ferrous acetate from my ferrous sulfate and let fly with the screens.

The test silk is drying now. I am risking my test silk to see if it is damaged by the iron. Tomorrow I’ll dung it with calcium carbonate to fix the iron. Once it is dry the iron is bonded and won’t migrate from the print. Then some pieces will take a trip thru my persimmon dye and some thru the lichen. Once I am happy with my tests I’ll move on to some silk scarves and a silk shirt for a real skill test.

The blank squares on the piece were left for just printing with lichen and the guar gum, always room for one more test! I’ll be able to see if my lichen and persimmon dyes are strong enough to cold print and solar set.


Tannins on Wool

8 Sep

So, in the meantime I’ve been soaking some tannin material for use on my rug wool. Some of these have been soaking since last year. We had a great crop of acorns a year ago. Those have been fermenting away.

I’ve collected many oak galls during my lichen gathering over the past two years. Those have been soaking in 8 oz jars, it’s all about the pickle jars and how much they can hold!

We lost an oak to the drought and the woodpeckers & raccoons thoughtfully stripped the bark for me.

Friends north of here, both in Texas, Colorado and Pennsylvania have gifted med with various species of walnuts.

All of these colors were done with a minimum of dyestuff to see what I could get with a minimum of effort. Really, I am lazy! All are mordanted with alum sulfate at 12% wof, rinsed and cured for about a month before dyeing

My favorite color is the oak gall. I am prepping for a much larger dye run in the next batch. It will make a beautiful neutral with the lichen rose & garnet tones. I am starting to visualize a rug series based on a water motif using the colors from my valley.

It is tough to capture the different tannin tones. In summary, I would describe them as acorn-golden tones, oak bark-silver brown, oak gall-rose brown, and walnut-light brown.

Walnut will get redipped to push darker and I think the others will get an iron modifier to see how dark they go.




Diospyros texana – Texas persimmon revisited OR still searching for black

30 Jul

To be specific I am working with Diospyros texana Texas persimmon, Mexican persimmon, Black persimmon, Chapote, Chapote prieto member of the Ebenaceae (Ebony Family)

This is a different species from the eastern persimmon used in Japan, Korea or other Southeast Asian countries which is known as the kaki. This fruit has a long tradition of being used as a cloth dye for protective measures. Here is a great article on that cultural use, also known as galot.

But I digress, I am trying to use the same techniques with our Texas persimmon, same family, most definitely a different species. I am glad to be corrected by a botanist.

So far I’ve experimented with both the green and the ripe persimmon. I’ve experimented with increasing the PH, simmering the fruit and also aging the fruit. At this point it seems that the green fruit gives one a yellow toned color and the ripe fruit pushes towards golden brown. So far I have a 1 year old green vintage which I’ve tested with one dip. More to come on that one. I need to test with iron to see how that pushes towards black but last year’s experiment just gave me a golden brown. I am certainly getting a good variety of yellow, gold and amber colors. All will make great undertones for over dyeing. I just need to decide what to over dye them with….agarita, Japanese indigo, madder root, or lichen?

One can look at these colors for hours and convince oneself that these are yellow, but if one compares these skeins to the colors produces by cota, agarita and weld one can see how these persimmon colors are all heavily impacted by their tannin content. In other words, there are some beautiful browns, some with a yellow undertone but the brown (tannin) definitely shows.

Here are some other parts of the process:

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Ripe Persimmon with high PH

19 Jul

In process today, ripe persimmon with a tablespoon of soda ash added to kick up the PH. This skein will go thru the cold dye bath several times and oxidize in this nice warm sun. I’m still searching for that elusive black. No iron in this dye pot…..yet. I’ve set aside the seed and pulp to save for grinding for another dye pot. Next up is to overdye one of my Japanese Indigo skeins to test suitability for green shades.




Lichen to Gall to Iron

10 Dec


Left side is water soaked lichen-tan tones. Right side is soda ash soaked lichen-red tones. Middle lichen skeins are simmered in oak galls- still held tan or red tones. Top skeins are iron afterbath, no difference in color. All great neutrals.

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