Sunday, 2 October 2011

Experiment in natural dyeing

I happen to find myself in need of a small amount of yellow wool, sufficient to crochet the beak and feet of a penguin (there is a good reason for this). I have white, black, red and green yarn, but no yellow. I could go out and buy a ball of yellow wool, but then I would be left with most of a ball of a colour that I don’t normally use. I could use red or green instead, but the resulting penguin would look a bit odd.

I decided to experiment with dyeing some of the white wool, using turmeric. I looked the subject up on the internet, and found that turmeric will work as a dye, but isn't very colourfast. This would be a problem if I wanted to make a garment, but isn't in this case, as the item I intend to make won't need to be washed very often.

I’ve done a little bit of dyeing before, and what is needed is not only some wool to dye and some colour to dye it with, but also something acid to make the colour stick. Vinegar or citric acid are often used. I don’t have any citric acid, and the only vinegar I have is very dark-coloured rice vinegar. I didn’t want to risk turning the wool black, so I bought a lemon and used the juice of one half.

On the left, the wool is soaking in a mixture of water and lemon juice. Making the wool wet before starting the dyeing process helps the colour to be taken up evenly. On the right is the prepared dye: I made it by mixing one teaspoonful of turmeric with a little hot water to the consistency of a thin paste. I then drained the soaking water and poured the turmeric mixture onto the wool. I used a plastic spoon to spread the paste, and squidged the yarn around with my fingers, to ensure even coverage.

I put the yarn into a plastic bag and steamed it in the rice cooker for about 15 minutes, then turned the rice cooker off and left everything to cool. I rinsed the yarn in the sink to remove any excess turmeric. Some of the colour came out at this point, but not much.

The experiment was a success: I now have yellow wool.

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