Thursday, November 05, 2009

From the Gulf Coast Lab

Over the last few days I've become obsessed with the whole natural dyeing process. I love the idea of dyeing my own fabric and sticking it to "the man". What I mean to say, I don't always have the recommended fabric here and sometimes I want to start something right now instead of waiting to order the fabric I need. Learning how to dye my own fabric, it gives me some hand-dyed options, gets me out of the "I must absolutely use the recommended fabric" frame of mind.

Of course I have no sense of color, I have no patience, I want to dunk my fabric and call it good. I'm learning but it's a chore. That being said these berries were hanging over the fence and I thought they would make a nifty purple dye. They don't, they make an amber colored liquid. But that didn't stop me.

After simmering the Beautyberries in the pot for a while I poured off some amber colored liquid and went foraging in the freezer for a package of three year old freezer burned blackberry/blueberry mix. I dumped those in the pot and brought it back to a simmer and then let it steep over night. This morning I cut two small rectangles of white muslin and stuffed them in these jars. I decided the dye might work better if it was heated so I put each jar in the microwave for five minutes, then took them out, set them on the kitchen window sill and left them alone.
Here's the fabric soaking in it's warm dye bath. The jar to the left holds the Beautyberries and the blueberry/blackberry mix. The jar to the right is just the Beautyberries. They smell wonderful when simmering like an herbal tea. I kept having to tell people the stuff in the black pot is not edible. I was relieved after doing some research to discover the beautyberries weren't toxic and someone even made jelly from them, and they pointed out they were still alive but I'm still not so sure about that because most sites I found weren't sure if these berries were toxic or not which I thought was strange since someone did indeed make some jelly out of them.

And here are my test squares. The pink/purple hued piece is from the berry mix and the pale yellow is from the beautyberries alone. The muslin was bright white like that paper towel. I do not have a clue what I'm doing so I'm going to do more research and find out about setting the dye or using vinegar or alum as a moredant. I did add a bit of vinegar to the amber liquid just to see what it would do. It just made it smell vinegary as far as I can tell.
Today I plan on trying my hand at turning Goldenrod into a pot of yellow dye. We'll see how that goes.

Here is my start on Heartstring Primitive's Rachel Holmes. Yes the picture sucks. Click it on to enlarge and it's a bit better. The fabric is 32ct MCG white linen that I coffee dyed and baked. The threads are not the ones Beth used but my own conversion using threads I had in the stash, I was shocked to discover that I didn't have any of the called for WDWs.
I'm stitching Rachel, 1x2 and liking the look more than I expected. This is the second chart I've used stash threads for and I think I'm getting better at matching my colors. It helps that Beth had a DMC conversion on her chart. I appreciate that a lot! This is a mix of GAST, CC and DMC.
I had been charting something out by hand and my friend Pam helped me with my Patternmaker software so that I would quit banging my head on the table from the chore of charting by hand. Maybe I'll have that to show tomorrow. Ok Pam didn't "help" me, she pretty much did it all. I have so many technical issues and once again no patience.


Deb said...

I really give you a lot of credit with all your experimenting with the dyes. I don't blame you with wanting to stick it to the man. I feel the same. I'm looking forward to seeing what else you come up with.

And I love your Heartstrings piece. It looks great so far.

Missy Ann said...

I like Rachel, I'm a sucker for primitive animals. It's like a Rorschach test "and what do you see here?".

Yesterday I was playing around with cross stitch software myself. I don't think I'll even look at it today. lol

Dyeing now? You are a better woman than me. :D

Lana said...

Wow, how ambitious you are with your dyeing experiments!!! Fun! I love the new start! Great progres so far!

Daffycat said...

Love the dyeing experiment!

I got really tired of going to buy fabric in a certain color in a certain count only to find they have the color but in another count only or else the fabric isn't what I like. I've really enjoyed dyeing my own fabrics, although nothing "natural" just RIT dye and tea & coffe. It's fun to play with fabric.

Brigitte said...

I have never tried experimenting with dyes. But I love what I see on different blogs. Dyeing with berries is a great idea and I love your results.
Like you I stitch more and more with the threads that are in my stash and I also take the colours after the picture that comes with the chart when there is no DMC conversion.
Your new project looks great and I love the start you made on it.

Siobhan said...

Good for you, Melissa! Looks like fun.

Great start on your Heartstrings piece, too!

Boyz Mom said...

I feel like such a lucky woman to have you in my life every day. You are holding on to that dye for when I wanna stitch something in blueish purple, right? LOL

Charlene said...

Love your dying experiments. I did some with cotton threads a good while back and had the same experience with colors not being as you would think.

Michelle said...

Love your experiments!!! Rachel Holmes is looking beautiful!!