Thursday, February 26, 2009

Snow White And Rose Red

Well, maybe not “rose” but “brasa”, which means glowing embers. Too bad it’s just a poetic red dye colour. I could use those embers to stay warm! I’ve been slapped upside the head for thinking that spring was on the way but there was a skiff of snow on the ground this morning. Unfortunately not enough to use for snow-dyeing which is what I was hoping. Other parts of the Lower Mainland got more than we did because a number schools are having a snow day. Wusses. It’s not like it’s a foot deep or anything. Just a bit slippery. And it’s even brightening up.

I’ve been somewhat quiet the last few days because I was determined to finish spinning my silk/wool yarn. I ended up with about 45g and 740 yards of 2-ply. That’s pretty fine stuff! Right after I wound the last skein, I rushed down to the dye studio and washed them and popped them into a mordant pot (8% alum, 7% cream of tartar). Then I brought it slowly up to a simmer and kept it there for an hour. I also weighed out 100% (45g) of brazilwood sawdust and poured boiling water over it. After the mordant pot cooled a bit, I wrapped it in a towel and left both it and the brazilwood overnight. Now that I’ve read up a bit more, I probably could have left the wood steeping for several days. But I didn’t know that. Besides I’m impatient to get this project on the needles.

This morning I rinsed the mordanted yarn. I ran the brazilwood through a coffee filter into the dyepot and covered the “mud” again with water and brought it up to a simmer for an hour. I was interested to see what colour that first soaking would give so I put the yarn into it:

Orange! It wasn’t even heated yet and I didn’t care if it was somewhat unevenly dyed. Gives more spark to the yarn. After removing the skeins temporarily the second extraction was filtered into the dyepot. I replaced the yarn and started heating the pot while the sawdust was going through a third extraction. I removed the yarn again while filtering the dye a third time:

Dark orange! Note that each time I used a new coffee filter because they don’t survive more than one use. (Ask me how I know this!) This time when I re-entered the yarn and simmered for an hour I got an even deeper colour:

Warm red! Currently I’m leaving the yarn in the dyepot to cool as long as I can stand it. It’s already deeper than the previous photo. The brazilwood (probably Caesalpinia echinata) is some that I’ve had for so long the business I bought it from has been gone for years - though Maiwa carries it here. Mine is very finely ground:

I have no idea if it was sustainably harvested or not but since I already have it in my possession it would be stupid not to use it. The ecological concern is that C. echinata, also called pernambuco, is highly desirable for violin bows (not so much for dye anymore) and is rare and endangered in the country to which it gave its name. Maiwa says theirs is from waste wood and therefore ecologically ok. Interestingly, brazilwood dye is very susceptible to pH differences. To keep the warmer orange-based red I’m going to have to use a neutral soap when I wash the scarf. In a higher (alkaline) pH the colour becomes cooler and more purplish which might be fun to play with in future experiments. It’s also fairly washfast but not terribly fast to light. Doesn’t matter in this project because a lace scarf won’t likely be worn much in bright sunshine. And it could always be re-dyed if truly necessary.

If you’ve been paying attention, I was planning originally to use red sandalwood (perhaps Pterocarpus santalinus which is also endangered or another similar wood which is a byproduct and not endangered). And yes, I have a pound of it from the same company where I got the brazilwood. And no, that’s not why they went out of business! However, the red sandalwood is one of the insoluble redwoods and needs alcohol to help release the colour. It’s also not quite as bright as brazilwood so I chose to go the easier route to the colour I was after. I can’t control myself much longer. I need to go do a final rinse and hang the skeins up (indoors of course) to dry.

1 comment:

Silk said...

you got slapped with snow... we got punched with cold...-19 this morning..sure glad there will be no lambs this year....and we are off to Kamloops to visit old to wear my winter boots again... darn it...