Tuesday 25 September 2012

What can have coloured my silk?

I have just prepared a variety of silk fibres and yarns ready for dyeing. There are several winter markets coming up so I thought I ought to get started - but without the usual panic and rush!

Maybe this was a bad idea! ALL the fibres and yarns were Mulberry silk so white rather than cream or caramel coloured. I scoured them all first - but in separate pans as I didn't want the fibres attaching themselves to the yarns.

 I had already mordanted alpaca and romney so the mordant was an exhaust bath being re-used, it had had alum and cream of tartar in (hopefully taken up by the wooly yarns) so I added a different proportion of alum and cream of tartar for the silks. The liquid was CLEAR, absolutely no sign of any colour before I entered the silk. The silk was still white before being entered.

The liquid was heated to about 45 degrees and then left for a day - I like the mordant to have a good length of time with the fibres! When I took the lid off to srain out ready to use again I had something of a shock! 

All the fibres had changed colour to a lovely shade of peach! The liquid has remained colourless - hopefully you can see that from the yarn picture. The mordant bath is stainless steel and there is nothing unusual about the alpaca and romney that came out before. (The green you can see is the tags I use for labelling my yarns - and no, none of the ink has come off either!)) I am sure there is no iron contamination and although I do sometimes add in tannin when mordanting silk (correct historically) there was none present here.

The white tub shows the silk caps that have been taken out of the bath - they really are very pretty, but what can be the colour?

I haven't yet tried to dye any of the fibres - that will be the next interesting challenge,

Has anyone had a similar experience - or any suggestions? I'll let you know how I get on with the dyeing in due course!

Tuesday 18 September 2012


I really enjoy running workshops, I never thought I would, but it is so inspiring to see the emerging colours and delight on the faces of the attendees.

 Last Saturday I was with the Bedfordshire Guild of WSD, a lovely bunch of ladies who were enthusiastic from the minute they walked through the hall door!

It was not a quiet workshop, with deep concentration taking over - there were plenty of questions and discussion about what was going on! In the morning we covered the history of dyes working with plant stuff and even including an historical experiment - which gave a very distinct result! I'm not telling you what - you'll have to book on a workshop to find out!

In the afternoon we worked with the modern extract dyes, giving much more scope for design and artistry.  It always intrugues me how differently people work with the same products - all had exactly the same colours to play with - yet no two items were the same!

Everyone went home with something practical to use and a range of samples, lots of ideas in their heads and hopefully the wish to continue working with natural dyes! Thank you for inviting me round to play!

If anyone is interested in booking us for a workshop feel free to email for more details.

Wednesday 5 September 2012

Ter Apel

 We are finally  home and unpacked after a really lovely weekend in the Groningen district of Holland.We were working in the grounds of the beautiful Klooster at Ter Apel . A lovely event with a relaxed atmosphere - but actually incredibly busy and popular!

The stall was out of course but also our dyeing demo which received much interest from visitors and reneactors. The water gave some lovely colours to our onion skins and madder, the woad we take along each time but was a good deep blue! Everyone is fascinated by the magic and all react well to "essence of John"" even when it's a different language being spoken.

The whole event was well devised and presented, there was a theme for everyone to work to - this year it was around health and health care - the standard of kit and demonstrations was as high as I have seen anywhere, really top class. The event has a team of volunteers who are looked after and fed (as we were!) by a team of cooks, breakfast, lunch and dinner for over a hundred all prepared over an open fire

Bedankt Hessel Westerbeek and Koen En Henny Meijer for inviting us along - we hope you'll invite us back next year!.