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Friday, 25 April 2014

2nd Year Blues

This week I collected all the woad leaves I could find in the garden from last year's plants, hoping to get just one more batch of blue from them.  One plant was just starting to throw up a flower spike, so I really didn't know if I was too late or not.  Woad plants give good colour in the first year, but are supposed not to give anything much in their second year.  I hoped that if I picked the leaves before the plants flowered, they may not realise it was their second year!

I washed, rinsed and then soaked some fibres ready for the dyepot :-

Top left = baby alpaca;  top right = Blue faced Leicester;  bottom right = merino;  bottom left = silk.

The leaves were washed and chopped and covered with boiling water, then left for an hour to steep.

After the leaves were strained out, the liquid was returned to the dye pot, heated to 50 deg C, and a small amount of washing soda stirred in until the liquid turned a greenish colour.  I don't have pictures of all the stages, but next the mix was whisked to incorporate oxygen until the froth on the top turned blue.

The pan was then heated back up to 50 deg C and the liquid poured into 4 separate bowls, one for each type of fibre.

On these photos you can just see the residue of blue froth on the top.  The Spectralite (Thiourea Dioxide) was then sprinkled on top and the bowls were left for 45 minutes before carefully (without introducing air into the mix) submerging the fibres.

The result wasn't bad for 2nd year leaves, although the silk did go back in for a second try.

Top = merino;  middle left = silk;  middle right = baby alpaca;  bottom = Blue faced Leicester.

I particularly like the way the alpaca took the colour, even though there are pale patches with each of them.  The colour will blend with carding to give an overall paler blue.

These instructions are from Jenny Dean's book Wild Colour, and always work well for me.