The last experiment I did was so magical though (yes, a very technical scientific term..lol) that I wanted to share it with you because I never ever thought it was possible to create those colours with natural dye pigments. I am very happy to have been proven wrong ! Yay for Science !
THIS is what it is all about : Carthamus Tinctorius or as it is also known as Safflower or even the “poor mans’ o “bastard” saffron, because it can be used as a substitute for the extremely expensive real saffron which comes from the stigmas of the crocus.
It is a thistle like plant and has been used by dyers all over the world for centuries. The ancient Egyptians were fond of the safflower as a decorative item, and garlands have been found on mummies. The husks were used as a feed for livestock, and the plant was grown as a border to vegetable and field crops.
The oil was used in salads and cooking, and as a base for pigments. Chemical analysis of ancient Egyptian textiles dated to the 12th Dynasty identified a yellow dye made from safflower. Garlands made from safflowers were found in the tomb of the pharaoh Tutankhamon ( I have to admit as a student of middle Egyptian and a big “fan” of archaeological digs in the Valley of the Kings that even got me more interested in safflower). Pliny mentions that the Egyptians rubbed safflower oil on the body as a protection against poisonous stings.
Recent studies have shown that safflower oil is beneficial to keep blood sugar down, is good for dry skin and so much more. And, ofcourse, safflower seeds are extremely nice to eat as well for bunnies. So off I went to my safflower adventure !
Today, safflower is mainly grown for its’ seeds which are used to make cooking oil. You can grow your own saffron by sowing the seeds in early spring inside and then transplanting the seedlings as soon as the soil has warmed up a bit. It tolerates most soils but requires plenty of full sun.
I have found it very difficult to grow it where we are because we are in the middle of the forest, in a valley, surrounded by majestic trees and therefore lots of shade, so my crop was not very big.
You have to harvest the petals before the weather gets too wet too :as soon as the flowers begin to bloom you have to remove the petals every couple of days and dry them. This will take weeks, so patience is important: something natural dyers have to have in a large quantity anyway ..but the result is not only mesmerizing and magical but totally amazing ! Yes, you can get two totally different colours from this amazing plant with , yes, a lot of patience ..again.
So yes, Dyeing with Saffron requires a lot of patience and a bit of mad scientist thrown in: first you have to simmer the safflower petals for about 45 minutes (I simmered mine for an hour and 15mins) ; strain off the dye liquid and then simmer the yarns (or fibres) for about another hour (I simmered mine for an hour and a half to get those rich mustard yellow colours).
Now, I can see you asking yourself “but how about those vibrant pinks !?” yes, that is where the mad scientist part comes in. Getting yellows from safflower is quite “easy-ish” but inside that yellow there is a disguised pigment lurking: pink!
The yellow pigments is removed from the petals first you see. In India and also in Japan the red component from the safflower petals was used to dye cotton and silks in amazing shades of pinks and also orangey-reds.
One of the things to always remember is to wear gloves when dyeing: you can stain your hands a very wonderful yellow that makes everybody think you have a liver problem…so wear gloves!
I did tests in two different ways: first I used a method to get the yellow and then found I could not really get a good pink except a washed out pink, so my second method was to put my petals in a muslin bag and then rinse under cold water to extract the yellow dye until the water ran totally clear.
Now you can use the yellow dye you just extracted to dye all kinds of fibres and yarns so all is not lost!
To extract the red dye you have to treat the petals with a very alkaline solution (I used washing soda) to get PH 11 ( water gets red brown) .
Leave all that red brown mess to nicely “ferment “ for at least one to 2 hours ! Strain and add your dye liquid to a cooking pot. The trick is to make your dye solution a bit acidic before adding your yarns: your yarns will only get that gorgeous pink when your solution is acidic ! So, add vinegar or lemon juice (I added lemon juice because I have too many lemons in my harvest) to make your dye solution acidic enough to dye your yarns (aim for PH5 to 6). The dye liquid should now be a brightish reddish colour (no brown !).
Then (my secret ingredient!: I added some hemp fibre – you can use cotton as well) to absorb the red dye overnight. These fibres are now dyed red.
My aim was to get pink on my wool cashmere yarn so off I went and added in washing soda to get them to a PH 11 (I soaked mine for about 45minutes). Your alkaline dye solution turns red: all the red from the hemp pours back in the bath.
Get your hemp fibres out again and add lemon juice of vinegar again to make a PH 5 to 6 and Finally : add your yarns and most importantly: let them soak in that goodness overnight or even longer. Eh voila ! Pink goodness !!!! There's magic in the Science !
On todays blog I have prepared an array of different naturally dyed cashmerino yarns for you, and a very special batch of organic Blue faced Leicester in three different smooch colours of browns, beige and white, hand blended to create a gorgeous top ready to spin into your own magical yarn !
Working on this weeks update and the mad scientist experiments, together with the prepwork for the august clubs has not left me with a lot of time to knit my cowl I promised to you in last weeks’ blog. I will try my best to get it done for next week ! As a teaser for the IxCHeL august fibre , yarn and batt club I can show you a teaser of the label though: It is going to be an exciting one ! (btw I will post photos of the July clubs on my facebook and instagram pages so you can have a look later tomorrow. Here are the links: Facebook IxCHeL Page: www.facebook.com/IxchelYarnsAndFibres and Instagram : www.instagram.com/ixchelbunny Please join my instagram and facebook pages: lots of goodies and info will be added there for you and share the goodness ).
This is the teaser label for the August Fantasy themed Club, I give you: AVATAR !
On this blog you can find some IxCHeL botanical dye range cashmnerino lace weight yarns together the Blue Faced Leicester tops and a repeat of the Dark side of the moon IxCHeL Sock yarn offer.
Natural dyeing and eco printing take a lot of time so please know I do not have a huge amount of stock of these available.
Also, every tops and skein are of course slightly different even when the same leaves or plants have been used: they are beautiful to combine and will create a sense of uniformity and natural beauty when combined as with all things that have been dyed using natural dyes. That is just the thing what I love about dyeing with plants: Nature always has a tendency to have everything live in harmony together. Have fun and thank you so so much for your support and being there for our little fibre farm! You are AMAZING !
Happy Hoppy Weekend to all !! Please message me with your wishes and your postal address on facebook, Instagram or ravelry or you can also email me on ixchelbunny at yahoo dot com dot au and I will get straight back to you with all the payment details.
IxCHeL Botanical Dye Range Cashmerino Lace weight yarn
superfine Merino 18micron(70%), Cashmere (30%) all Australian Grown, Spun and dyed ; +/- 1200 meters/100grams. One skein makes a gorgeous lace shawl; two skeins: double knit the lace weight yarn to create a gorgeous jumper or top. The yarn has an amazing stitch definition and is next to skin super soft. All these Cashmerino skeins have been dyed with natural dyes or eco printed with leaves, roots, husk or bark and have been rinsed thoroughly. Please cold water wash with a very gentle baby shampoo or organic sulphate free dishwashing liquid or shampoo. Rinse gently and dry in shade.
100 +grams AU$32
-dyed with home grown and fermented woad ball
(only try this at home while wearing a breathing mask and vicks vapo under your nose
….the nicely fermented woad balls
are NOT to be used as a perfume ….ever…LOL)
(unless you wear gloves you will wear black nails forever when harvesting
and extracting this dye pigment..lol)
the yarn however is safe to wear: it has been rinsed throroughly!
Organic Blue Faced Leicester Tops
Tri Colour blended brown, fawn and white
IxcHeL Botanical Dye Range Mini Skeins
+/- 6 – 9 grams per mini skein,
5 mini skeins per pack, IxCHeL Sock yarn
(hand dyed in the Yarra Valley and spun in Victoria, Australia)
AU$15one mini skein is enough for 1.5 hexi puffs using needles 3.25mm
IxCHeL Sock Minis Madder light to dark
IxCHeL Sock minis Indigo light to dark with one eco printed mini
IxCHeL Sock Minis Woad light and dark, walnut husks, eco printed x2
IxCHeL Sock Minis Madder, pear Bark, Walnut and 2 eco printed minis
New IxCHeL Club sign ups are starting !
October, November, December 2017
IxCHeL Fibre Club October, November and December 2017
The IxCHeL Sock Yarn Clubs October, November and December 2017
IxCHeL Funky Bunny Batt Clubs October, November and December 2017
Dark Side of the Moon Yarn Sign up
100 +grams/3.53 oz AU$28
Australian grown, Spun in Australia and hand dyed in the Yarra Valley
Dates to put in your Calendar !!
250 g tubs AU$26
Just contact me with the name of the colour you are after and I will get right back to you.
How To Order:
2. Message me on facebook or
3. Message me on www.ravelry.com where I am Ixchelbunny.
I will email you right back with all your order details and payment methods.
Any questions? Any custom orders for yarn or dyeing fibre? : Please don’t hesitate to ask! Always happy to enable.