Tag Archives: Dye

San Antonio lecture 9/10/16 – The Color of Nature: Exploring Roots, Wood, Bugs, and Berries

22 Aug

Sponsored by the Friends of San Antonio Natural Areas – September 10th 10am – noon at Friedrich Wilderness Park classroom located at 21395 Milsa Rd. San Antonio, TX 78256

Explore the natural history of color while learning contemporary application techniques. This talk will include practical aspects such asbinding agents as well historic uses. Participants can view examples of the colors produced by Texas lichens, cactus tuna, cochineal, Texas agarita, and more! For centuries, people have used natural dyes using locally available plant, mineral and even insect sources. Today, choosing natural dyes over the chemical alternative is becoming more popular as we move toward more sustainable ways of living. This workshop is presented by Deb McClintock, local artist and textile designer. For more information, call (210) 207-3782, or email nicole.mcleod@sanantonio.gov. Suggested donation: $3 per person, or $6 per family.

Click here to make a reservation – donations are suggestion but not necessary, look for the September 10th lecture.  http://fosana.org/calendar/

 

 

Prepping madder for cold dye

24 Mar

Well, prepping madder root for cold soak is sorta a misnomer in 80 degree Texas spring weather. But I’ll stick with a Tx cold soak.

I took 100 grams (3.5oz) each of my 3 year large root & 3 year small root madder vintages and soaked them in 4 cups of water in the sun yesterday and overnight. Result was softened roots with the dirt and skin loosened.

I strained off the first 4 cups of water, set it aside and cut the larger roots with scissors so they would not jam my blender.  Then into the blender with 4 more cups of water.

The first blend water was poured off again and reserved with the overnight soak water. You could see the dirt and skin that had loosened.

Into the blender one more time on high and the roots were pulverized for more soaking. Pouring off the soak water and the first blend water will, I hope, keep the brown accents out of my red.

The madder slurry was poured back into the holding jar with its water and set out to sun simmer again for a couple of sun days until I am ready to add my silk.

Now, you can bet after this effort that I cringed when I lost some of my dye stock on the floor by pouring too fast. Grrr, breath and go slow, the madder has already taken 6 years to grow. What is my hurry?

I repeated the process with another batch of my 3 year small root vintage and reserved the wash water again.

So now, the 3 &year small and large roots are solar heating for age color comparisons.  The wash pull is waiting for me to do something with it. Hmmmm, pull pigment or dye silk, choices exist.

note: edited 3/20 to reflect batches processed were 3 year large root and small root…100 Grams each!

Harvesting Madder Root In the Texas Hill Country (aka Texas Red)

2 Feb

imageHarley will assure you I grow madder root for his napping and bug hunting convenience. Despite his beliefs, I am experimenting with growing madder root as a crop with our alkaline soil and high PH well water. I don’t believe I will need to add calcium to this madder root to get to a deeper color. More on dye experiments later this month. This post is all about the digging and madder root prep.  I am making an assumption most folks don’t and won’t grow their own madder root and would enjoy living vicariously thru my harvest.

Why do I? Because I can and I hope it will be a decent cash crop.  You don’t grow madder for its beauty.  It is invasive, scraggly and very scratchy. The tiny yellow blooms and purple/black berries are pretty but small. The mockingbirds and pill bugs LOVE the madder berries!  It is a good rotation crop, if you can call every three years a timely garden rotation.  Once you get it established it takes very little water and just grows.

I had two madder beds to harvest, one three year and one six year bed.  I did take the trouble to keep the vintages separate so I could test the color yield on the two vintages.  The six year bed came about because of a shoulder injury and subsequent surgery which diminished my enthusiasm for heaving roots with a pitchfork.  Once I run some test dye baths we’ll see if  a six year vintage happens again or if a three year rotation will suffice.

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To start the harvest I clipped off the green cover leaves and stalks. That leaf cover crop will give you a nice series of yellows and the leaf stalks will give you a light tangerine. You can plan out your bed harvest to take that portion of the crop to the dye pot and simmer your dye stock while you are digging the roots. I am sorry to say I just cut the leaves & stalks and put them out on the septic field for the deer to munch on. There are historical reports about livestock eating the madder root and developing red bones. I’m thinking some deer hunters around here will be scratching their head if they harvest any of our deer.  I had a lot of digging to do and a tight timeline and wanted to get to it, so…happy deer!

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A garden friend and fellow weaver, Jeannette, came up from San Antonio to help me with my 2nd day of harvest. She wanted to see the plant first hand and learn more about the dye process. Her reward for her hard work was ample madder seed, fresh madder root and some commercial dried madder root for comparison for the dye pot. She went home with ideas for her own madder bed.  My back appreciated Jeannette’s help the 2nd day very much.

It was nice to have someone with which to celebrate the big root “finds”.

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We dug, shook out dirt, washed and rinsed the madder harvest and set it out to dry.

If one is going to pull a big crop I can’t stress having enough tarps for sorting/rinsing and drying racks to manage the roots as you process the crop.

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Above you can see the depth of color these tap roots hold! I think these will yield the deepest color.

Below is about two thirds of the crop laid out to dry.

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After a couple of weeks of drying and the next spell of clear weather I stomped the crop to clear more dirt and clipped the roots apart. The size sorting within the vintages began at this point.  There are the root clumps, the “finger size or larger” madder root and the smaller roots within the 3 and 6 year vintages.  This crop continues to dry.

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Once the moisture is reduced I’ll weigh the crop to see what the root yield is from this effort.

Next up is to pull some 3 & 6 year samples and see what colors I can coax out of the roots.

Below are colors from another earlier 3 year crop to give you a color comparison preview.  It will be fascinating to see what nature has in store for the roots when they meet the dye pot and silk.

Stay tuned!

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Cochineal (4 gram) on silk (93 gram)

15 Dec

Earlier this fall I collected cochineal as soon as it appeared in October. Last year I collected it after a couple of freezes. The big question, is there a color difference before or after a freeze. How motivated do I need to be to collect before a freeze?

Here is last year’s cochineal on wool/alpaca, the one on the left had cream of tarter (acid) added to push the color:
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Here is this year on silk before washing, no cream of tarter:

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I have to say I am not a fan of this bright fuchsia, but an indigo dip or an iron bath will sadden it for my eye. Part of this silk is also destined for a Texas madder root over dye. Here it is after rinsing and drying, color toned done some.   Can you believe only 4 grams of fresh cochineal gave this depth of color on 93 grams of silk?

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Some folks have asked me if I collect all at once, nope! I collect a little at a time until I have about half a pudding cup. I keep that cup secured in a jar on my dye patio to protect it from bug hungry marauding raccoons and wrens.

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The entire harvest goes into a slow simmer and is strained and processed at least 3 times thru my coffee filter. You can see how it gradually sinks as the web gives up the bug color.

I will say if one decides to collect your own cochineal, take your time, listen to the cactus wrens and watch out for the snakes!

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How much color will 4 grams of Cochineal give?

31 Dec

Since it is too dry to collect lichen I’ve been pulling cochineal off of our opuntia cactus.

Cochineal web

Cochineal on Opuntia

Cochineal on Opuntia

We have prickly pear cactus.  I can’t be specific about the cactus, there are several kinds here in Blanco county, no thorns, thick thorns, long thorns.  I need to stare at the cactus more but here’s a link to all the types of cactus.  The Hibbitt’s family has given a good start on cactus id.

Meanwhile back to the cochineal….I’ve tried to leave cochineal on the cactus so I have some next year.  The first harvest yielded about 7 grams.  Figuring out how to harvest was quite amusing.   I went thru several tools.  Harley was very patient during his catwalks, while I scraped cactus, he sniffed for birds.

After collecting a small amount I was curious as to how much was “not enough”  so I started with 7 grams of fresh cochineal and web for 100 grams of substrate.  I used Lana D’Oro Cascade Yarn which in this case is 50% superfine alpaca and 50% wool.  Yike, .07% dyestuff for the yarn, would it work?  AND would the superfine alpaca portion hold up to the dye pot?  Well, first I needed to extract the color.  After reading thru some references and listening to suggestions to blog readers I went with my basic path of least resistance and did it the easy way.  Dump the dyestuff into my rainwater and simmer away.  I did about 3 extractions after simmering and sitting and filtering.

I went with two skeins so I could see how they deep a color they struck.  They were premordanted with alum sulfate.  Within 5 minutes I had a nice bright fuschia tone.  Wanting to see if I could push it to a different red I added cream of tarter to one of the skeins and it went towards a deeper rose.  Now this is impressive  for just 7 grams of color.  I don’t particularly like pastels so next time I’ll try more fresh cochineal and try a light iron dip to push it darker.   I can always muddy these skeins with iron also.  Stay tuned!  Ah!  And the alpaca/wool mix held up well to a dye pot.  Live is Good!

Diospyros Texana Persimmon Smashing

13 Jun

Once again I am working with Diospyros texana Texas persimmon, Mexican persimmon, Black persimmon, Chapote, Chapote prieto member of the Ebenaceae (Ebony Family).

About two weeks ago I did an early pick. The persimmons were green and hard, not a hint of softness. They’ve soaked for two weeks so they are very easy to smash. I dumped them into my plastic tub & pulverized them as best I could. The meat and seeds were released and one can see the yellow dye. They’ve gone back in the jar for another week’s soak and then it will be time for some dyeing.

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Other branches have already been weighed down by the persimmons’ weight OR broken by raccoons starting their tastings early. John and I trimmed those and I’ve started another jar soaking. To my eye and feel it still looks early for good color but one just has to test to understand the color window!

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Time to harvest persimmons

5 Jun

Time to harvest & soak the persimmons! This is something I can do with my left hand. My friend, Bettes, has encouraged me to paint warp skeins while I go thru my shoulder rehab. Wheels are turning!

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