Sunday, October 12, 2008

Coreopsis Conclusions

On Friday, I finished up my coreopsis dye adventures. To recap, when I last posted I had just put the mordanted Corriedale wool sliver in the bath, simmered it for awhile and left it for the rest of the day. Before I went to bed Thursday night I added the ammonia to the whole bath, which I hadn’t tried before (only in a separate pot). And then I left the wool overnight in the coreopsis/ammonia bath. That was the secret to getting true orange!

By Friday morning I was finished with dyeing – or dyeing finished me, I’m not sure which. So rather than try to dye anything else I just dumped the bath even though I probably could have gotten one more exhaust bath because the colour of the fibre from the last bath was still quite strong. A bright orange in fact. In total, that medium-sized Ziploc baggie of dried Coreopsis tinctoria (about 110 g total) dyed 625 g of wool and alpaca! And we’re not talking pale pastels either. That’s pretty impressive really.

I didn’t do anything to this photo so I’m hoping it will be more accurate colours. Clockwise from the top right: bright yellow wool (exhaust bath), rust wool (ammonia over gold), comfrey/copper/coreopsis alpaca lace yarn, coreopsis/ammonia alpaca lace yarn, deep gold wool, and centre: bright orange wool (ammonia over bright yellow).

Some things that I learned about coreopsis as a dye:

It takes a lot of picking over several months to get 100 g of dried flowers.

They pack a lot of dye into their small blooms.

It takes time to extract all the dye. I did one overnight soak in hot water, plus several more short simmering extractions.

It takes time to apply the dye. One hour when it reaches a simmer is just a minimum. Leave to cool in the bath if possible.

Initial colours resemble that from marigolds: deep gold, bright yellow, lemon yellow (depending on dye strength).

To shift the golds/yellows to oranges, it needs sufficient ammonia. Check after replacing fibre that the bath stays red. If it starts to shift back to rust add more ammonia.

When adding the ammonia the heat was turned off and the bath was hot but not simmering. I was afraid too much heat along with the alkaline bath would be detrimental to the protein fibres. I didn’t reheat at all but left it to cool by itself.

An good long (overnight) rest in the dyebath with the ammonia helps to develop full orange. Shorter times or insufficient ammonia gives more rusty tones.

Coreopsis colour is pH sensitive. Rinse only in clear water, no added vinegar. Further washing should only use neutral soap or detergent.

And that’s it! I learned a lot and got some more wool to spin up for my languishing Backyard Sweater project. Too many other things keep jumping to the front of the queue but at least I have lots of pretty wool to spin when the spirit moves me.

In other news, poor T-Man got my nasty cold, sore throat and all! He wasn’t supposed to catch it but with me sniveling and coughing and waving my hankies around it was probably inevitable. We’re discovering that his previously strong immune system isn’t quite what it used to be. Ah, the downsides to aging are many and varied. Heh. And he’s much older than me – at least for another couple of weeks! Meanwhile, I’ve been making him tea and buying him throat lozenges with echinacea in them and generally babying him until he feels better. We’re due at his brother’s house this afternoon for the family Thanksgiving dinner so I hope we can keep our germs to ourselves. I’ve got to go make a green salad to take with me. I can put a bunch of the last of my Juliette tomatoes in it before they’re all gone.


magnusmog said...

This is great info for me - I've just started learning about natural dyeing. I'll be sure to plant some coreopsis next year :)

Anonymous said...

I love these colors! It strikes me how very much people wanted to dress NOT in just plain old sheep and linen colors, to go to all this trouble in the Olden Days. And also: I think of all the nasty things they must have boiled up on the chance that some pretty colors might come out of it.

Louisa said...

The experimenting is so much fun! Now what I really want to know is how they figured out how to get blue from plants. It's so complicated and they didn't have handy bottles of chemicals to use. Every time I do an indigo or woad vat I'm impressed anew with our ancestors' ability to figure things out without understanding the science involved. Getting blue is true magic!