Saturday, July 25, 2015

True Colors

More adventures with my dyepot, this time using the Queen Anne's Lace that proliferates around here (and most other places, I'll bet) in unmown fields and roadsides. Since I'd never heard of using Queen Anne's Lace as a dye plant, I had a quick look around the internet to see how other people were doing it, and then (as is my way) I just plunged forth and did it, come what may. I filled a plastic shopping bag with flower heads, put them in my dyepot, added enough water to cover, and simmered it for about two hours. It stank. Some people claim to like the smell of these weeds boiling away, saying they smell lemony and carroty, but I thought it was vile. Maybe you have to like (ugh) carrots, I don't know...anyway. I turned off the heat and let it cool in the pot overnight. The next day, I strained the contents through a cheesecloth to remove all the flowery bits and then turned the dye liquor back into the pot. I added 1 T alum and 1/2 t cream of tartar and 4 oz. wet wool yarn into the dye and turned on the heat, letting it warm gradually to a gentle simmer. It bobbed around in the pot for an hour, then I rinsed it by dipping it gently into gradually cooler water baths in the kitchen sink until the water stayed clear. (I still can't get it together to pre-mordant the yarn, and I have no idea whether it will matter or not--if this yarn slowly turns white again over time, I'll let you know.)


Results above. It looks like most plants yield some kind of either brown or gold dye, and Queen Anne's Lace (mordanted with alum) yielded for me a soft, warm yellow I might call "butterscotch". I know there are other factors involved (I honestly know absolutely nothing about any of this, by the way) including the uses of other mordants--copper, for one--that can produce different results, and of course every batch is going to be a little different, no matter what anybody does, and that's part of what makes hand-dyeing so interesting to me. In any case, I think our pioneer ancestors must have worn a LOT of brown and gold, because unless a farmer happened to have a gray sheep, gold and brown--and all variants in between the two--was pretty much the color they had.


Luckily, it's nice.