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Making the most of dyeing opportunities

Dyeing with harakeke (flax)

We've been waiting anxiously for a whole year.  We planted a few varieties of flax 3 years ago. This year we wanted to use the flax pods for dyeing and we wanted the pods to be fleshy. By scratching the pods you get a hint of the colour that will be extracted and these pods gave off a greeny-brown. A small amount of pods extracts a large amount of dye "juice". Three days ago we picked the pods and cut them up. We then put them in a pot, covered with water, to stand in the sun for a few days.  Despite pre-mordanting the superwash merino wool, and frequently rearranging the skein in the pot, the dye took in a variegated way. However, the colours are very interesting - in one light a bronze brown and in another light the green can be seen. Variegated yarn such as this would work well in a beanie, for example.

Making the most of cochineal

Raw cochineal are silvery-purple dried insects, imported from overseas. You need to grind it first (I used a mortar and pestle), then soak and boil the finer matter in water to extract the dyestuff. The final outcome will depend on the mordant used and the pH of the dyebath. I've also altered the pH to make it more alkaline, which produces a scarlet red. After dyeing at an alkaline pH I've lowered it again to make the dyebath more acidic. Experimenting on different combinations of mordants and making the dyebath more acidic or alkaline produces many varying colours. Experimentation is a huge part of the fun of natural dyeing. While buying cochineal can be pricey, ten grams of cochineal goes a very long way. From memory, this small amount has dyed approximately seven skeins of yarn! This is will be the last one from that batch, a beautiful pale pink, also superwash merino. Today's dyeing was a lot quicker than usual with a warm breeze to dry the dyed yarn.

Work is finally underway!

Our shop is due to be built late 2023. It's a loooong process. Nothing's quick anymore :) but we knew this. While another builder is sorting out the shop, our builder Danny Rattray, is sorting out a loo and storage in our shed. Had all hands on deck with our two sons working on shelving in an old chiller in the shed. It is water tight and holds the temperature year round. Ideal for storing yarn!


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