When Meg-the-spinner came to pick up Julia-the-wheel, we had a fascinating conversation about natural dyeing. Meg is one of the old school natural dyers, the kind that makes her own dyes from things hanging around in her environment. I, on the other hand, am one of the “save time, buy prepared extracts” kind of dyers, but I’ve always been curious about the other approach.
Meg was the first person I have encountered to make that old school style sound accessible. Whereas I had heard the process described as acquiring huge quantities of raw dyestuffs and laboriously processing them into dye, Meg described peeling an avocado for dinner, chopping up the peel, tossing it in a jar with some liquid, then waiting a couple of days for dye to develop. Or using the water leftover from steaming beets. Of course, I couldn’t dye a huge quantity of fiber using this method, and some of the dyes might not be extremely lightfast, but for the purpose of experimentation, it is completely doable.
Meg came back the other day bearing gifts. She brought me a jar of in-progress copper blue:
This is just a couple of small pieces of copper pipe marinating in vinegar, and will eventually produce a blue/green dye. I had tried this process before, but apparently the copper pipe I used had anti-tarnish agents added to it, and I was soaking it in ammonia. It didn’t work, and was a bad-smelling, frustrating experience. Meg brought old copper pipe, sans anti-tarnish ingredients, and it is already turning the vinegar a faint bluish shade. I can’t wait to see what this is going to do.
Meg also brought samples of some of the things she has dyed:
Indigo, avocado, and beets (The pale green is from beets! Imagine that!). The fibers are silk, angora, and locks of some sort – possibly mohair?
I’m starting to consider this whole making-your-own-dyestuffs process, and found Felix talking about her own experiments on her blog today.
Perhaps it’s a sign of things to come.