Archive for January, 2012

Dyeing with Purple Loosestrife

I had high hopes for this dye bath, as I had read that purple loosestrife, in an iron pot, produced a lovely near black. Not so, at least not the way I did it. I used my usual alum mordant with a bit of cream of tartar for an hour or so (cool water), then put it into a cool purple loosestrife tea and raised the temperature to a simmer. It cooked for well over an hour, and then sat for almost 24 hourse. What I have is grey, and I’m not sure how much may yet rinse away.

After I had put the wool into the dye bath, I started browsing one of my dyeing books and discovered that the mordant may work better if I leave it for at least 24 hours before dyeing. That will be something to try nixt time.

I am seriously considering a project where I try various ways of treating ditch weeds. This leads to all kinds of interesting questions: would the average Merovingian housewife have dyed her own textiles? If she did, what mordants did she have access to? What dyes would she have used? Luckily for me, purple loosestrife is native to northern Scotland, so my nasty grey wool need never see the light of day (unless I find a way to combine it with something more attractive).


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Spinning for Etaoin

Well over a decade ago, possibly as much as 20 years ago, my friend Etaoin gave me some beautiful merino wool that she had dyed with cochineal. It is a gorgeous red, wonderfully soft, and I have never figured out quite what to do with it.  Today I began spinning it on a drop spindle. Though I still hope to use some in a tablet weaving project, my first goal is to produce one of the wools for a two-colour knitted reliquary pouch. One of the patterns incorporates hearts. It’s a typical medieval German design, which is perfect for my persona. Plus, I miss Etaoin very much since her death a couple of years ago, and this will be a nice way to think of her.

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I have gone down another craft rabbit hole that isn’t helping much on my A&S 50 challenge just yet. I have been learning to knit. This started almost a year ago; I am now pretty good at basic hats and I’m in the process of knitting my first socks. From there, I see a slippery slope into documentable hats, gloves, socks, and bags. I have a book of pilgrim’s pouch patterns, with the two colour patterns based on period examples (of socks, gloves, etc.). This seems like a good way to use up some of my hand spinning. It may eventually lead me to trying some of the folk socks I have patterns for, or even adapting the pilgrim’s bag patterns for socks. I have also been looking at the history of knitting.

To further this new endeavour, I have started thawing my purple loosestrife tea for a dyeing project tomorrow. I am promised that, if done in an iron pot, I should get a nice dark colour. We shall see.

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