Himalayan Rhubarb, Pomegranate, Saxon Blue, Spaced-dyed Cochinea, overdyed with Saxon Blue

Amazing New Colors from Vegetable and Insect Extracts: Himalayan Rhubarb, Pomegranate, Saxon Blue, Spaced-dyed Cochinea, over-dyed with Botanical Colors Saxon Blue

With the lengthening of the daylight I’m back from my winter hibernation sabbatical.     November is the time of the year when the wool between my fingers and the knitting designs in my head just seem to merge, and I found myself eagerly pulling out the new natural dyes that I was too busy to try out a few months before.  Until this spring when I went to a natural dye conference in France, I wore rose colored glasses (i.e., mostly fascinated with reds and purples) when it came to natural dye colors.   The conference made me see the beauty of the colors in the yellow range.   Since I now have this fantastic and easy to use indigo (herein called Saxon Blue from Botanical Colors) that doesn’t require a vat, I have been harboring an urge to mix up a whole slew of new colors mixed with blue to use in Fair Isle designs.

Genista tinctoria on silk, over-dyed with Saxon Blue

Pomegranate on silk, over-dyed with Saxon Blue

Himalayan Rhubarb, over-dyed with Saxon Blue

So, busy I have been with dyeing, researching and inputting Fair Isle designs into DesignAKnit, and learning how to electronically knit Fair Isle with naturally dyed yarn.

Gauge sample, merino, silk, cashmere, natural dyes, machine knit

Naturally dyed yarn does present some problems with the knitting machine because either the mordant or the dyes that sits atop the yarn creates more friction for the knitting machine and I have had lots of tension problems that make my machine drop stitches (usually on the last several rows of the project, of course!).

Ski Hat, Merino, Silk, Cashmere, indoor light

Finding a good day to photograph in the winter in Flanders seems almost next to impossible.  Even today with the sky clear as a bell, the sun is so low in the sky that shadows are cast even with a flat piece of fabric.   Photographing naturally dyed yarns in artificial light seems like an oxymoron, but my halogen lights in the dining room seem to do alright.  As you can see, I’m not a pro at photography.

Ski Hat, merino, silk, cashmere, natural dyes, machine knit, felted, outdoor light, full sun

In this piece, I used a spaced dyed yarn as the main yarn and it gives the effect of changing yarns every couple of rows behind the design.  Felting wool dyed in natural dyes is very easy and the results, as you can see are quite lovely.   My method of a controlled felting is to place two separate pans of water side by side, one as hot as you can stand it, and the other cold.  Then swish the finished project (before sewing it together) in hot, then cold, several times until you see the felting begin to occur.

Ski Hat, merino, silk, cashmere, natural dyes, machine knit, felted

I like to felt the Fair Isle a little bit to set the floats on the back into the fabric.  Wring it out well or soak up extra water between towels.   Then pop it into the dryer and set the timer for 5-10 minutes.   These pieces were in the dryer for approximately 20 minutes, but I checked it about every 5-7 minutes until I got the effect and size I wanted.

Next on the agenda is to make matching hats and leg warmers before the winter ends.  And a Fair Isle sweater fully shaped on the knitting machine.


About naturalcolor

Passionate about textiles, threads and color. I began knitting and sewing as a little girl and found spinning and weaving via my experience at Marygrove College in Detroit for Waldorf teacher education. Learning to spin, first on a drop spindle, then on a spinning wheel, made me feel as if I had done this in another lifetime. It seemed effortless. Since then, my passion for threads, yarns, color and weave effect, knitting and natural dyeing has led me into the rich world and cultures of textile design. Through the study of weaving, knitting designs and natural dyes, I have learned the archetypal connection we as weavers, knitters and dyers have to each other around the world and the richness of our art as we express our cultures through our craft. Ultimately, my passion is to preserve these life-giving arts through the connections we make with each other and ourselves with our craft, the information we store in our minds and hearts, and the stories and techniques we pass on to the next generation.
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