Recently I have gotten the bug to do some natural dyeing. In the past I have just not really felt the “dyeing” need that many of my fellow fiber artists do. I LOVE natural colors. However, I decided that this fall with all the white CVM I have been combing I should look into it. The first natural dye of choice was a no brainer as it’s blooming EVERYWHERE around me at the moment. Rabbit Bush, also know as Chamisa.
I didn’t even have to go very far to find it. About 100 yards outside my front door it’s growing in the drainage. It’s also being used in my neighbor’s landscape, but I decided that public domain was better than pruning my neighbor’s shrubbery.
The standard recipe for dyestuffs is an equal weight of dyestuffs to your dry weight of yarn. I ended up dyeing about 150g of wool. Both as scoured locks and hand combed top. Each were placed in mesh bags. They were put in a bucket to soak.
This Rabbit Bush experiment ended up being a bit of a comedy of sorts. Most of the dye books suggest that you mordant your wool overnight. Mordants help the dye molecules bond to the fiber. In this case I used Alum and cream of tartar. The recipe called for 8% of alum and 7% cream of tartar per dry weight. I could not seem to remember to get over to the studio and put the fiber into mordant.
Then My parents called me and they were going to be at my house on Wed evening instead of Friday evening…. The studio needed to become guest space. So I emailed my friend Ric who advised me to do an all in one dye bath. I just needed to cook the Rabbit Bush and then add the mordant and yarn to that and I would be set.
I did not take into account just how long this big pot of Rabbit bush would take to come to a simmer. Way longer than I had available in fact. So I had to turn it off and take my daughter to piano and then swim, etc… you get the idea. Later that evening, I was finally able to get it to simmer for an hour. The color seemed weak to me. But I was out of time. So I added the mordant and fiber and simmered that for an hour.
Again, the fiber did not seem very dark. It seemed barely yellow. But it was late and I was out of time. I decided to pull it and let it dry and revisit it and see if it needed another bath.
When I pulled it out of the bags, after it had cooled and dried a bit, I was pleasantly pleased with the color. It’s not a super strong yellow. More lemony. But I kind of like it.
I spun up the combed top. Other than playing with the CVM at the skills gathering, which does not count, I had not spun it. I spun it up on my Matchless. It is soo beautiful. I can not wait to do some more of it.
I am not a huge yellow fan. But it is a lovely yellow. So I have no idea what I am going to do with 160 yard of it. It might be nice as colorwork in a larger piece. Or I may experiment with an iron assist with some of the dyed locks to see if I get a nice green.