Hi Ho... This is Kermit theeee Frog Here...
Um, oops, I mean, Newsflash! Tonight I decided that it was officially time to try out this natural wool dyeing thing. I have been reading about it for a while, and a few weekends ago, in a moment of wool-weakness, I purchased about 10 lbs of a delightful combed Merino Top... so here we go!
From the online reading I've done, it seems that one of the simplest and most straightforward dyes that one can find in ones kitchen is Onion Skin. Depending on the minerals present in the water, and what mordants are used, Onion skin can create dyes that vary from olive greens, to deeper oranges and browns. At home we cook with onions very regularly, in fact I use an onion for most meals... so I started saving the skins some time back. The end result of my onion addiction - about 2 8 ounce jars of chopped onion skins, yellow and red onions in the mix.
From what I have learned so far, it takes a large quantity of natural material to make enough dye to really colour anything. One reference said you need 50g of onion skin to dye about 100 g of wool. I'm not sure if I had quite that much, but it felt like a lot. One of these days I will manage to buy one of those kitchen scales, and then maybe i can be more exact with my measurements. For the wool, I just held up the roving against another 3.5 oz roving I had in my stash. (Not very scientific at all! I know...)
After chopping up the skins into tiny pieces (yay scissors) I added them to a pot of boiling water and simmered on the stove over low heat for about 1 hour, then left it to steep for about 30 minutes. This is the colour that came out:
The resulting colour kind of reminds me of orange kool-aid, though it came out more like a pumpkin orange on the wool itself. I was really surprised, since I thought I would end up with more of a yellowish beige colour, more like the yellow onions themselves.
At this point, I let the dye cool down a bit. My wool had been soaking in hot tap water (which in our house is quite warm, but not quite boiling) and when the dye had gotten cool enough to stop steaming, I poured it into the bottom of a glass/pyrex 9 x 13 inch pan. Then I carefully added the pre-soaked (in water and white vinegar) wool and swirled the pan a little to allow the dye to mix with the wool.
Using a microwave method, I loosely placed some plastic wrap over the top of the pan, allowing some space for vents. Then I nuked the whole thing for 2 mintues, then rested on the countertop for 2 minutes. I repeated this for a total of 6 minutes nuking, and 6 minutes resting, then I let the whole thing return to room temperature, and rinsed the wool. After the Rinsing, some of the colour seemed to leach, leaving a peachy orange on the natural wool. I would imagine that if the wool was pure white, the end result would have been very peach, and less orange.
I saved a small sample of the dye so I could try an experiment in "exhaust" dying over the weekend. The whole principle of exhaust dying is that if you place fiber in the dye and then remove it before the entire amount of dye has been absorbed into the fiber, then there is a portion left... and you can dye a second fiber, and so on until the amount of dye in the liquid is completely used up. The resulting dyes should have gradually lightening colours. We shall see anyways.
Pictures of rinsed and dried wool to come later in the week... along with maybe some spun pictures too? time will tell... stay tuned!