The C of Red

cochineals01
Red wool, dyed with cochineals and/or madder root.

I’ll be honest, this picture is not an adequate representation of the actual colors, there’s a) my color perception that loves reds, b) the accuracy of my camera and c) the calibration of my screen. Anyway, I did my best, in different lightings and this is the least bad result.

But enough about the quality of my photos, what on there is what is important: dyed fiber!

After reading weird weekends’ post about crushing bugs, I had to go and get me some bugs. Yes, as a vegetarian, who rescues spiders from the kitchen sink, I went to go buy cochineals to dye with.

I left with 10 grams of cochineals, some Allum and Tartaric Acid, and an unreasonable excitement about the future crushing of already dead bugs.

At school, in the module dyeing and binding off of last year, I had the chance of dyeing with cochineals on wool, or at least see my teacher do it. She obtained a bright fuchsia, which isn’t really my color, definitely not on its own. So I classified cochineals as something I would never dye with unless I there was nothing else available. But seeing weird weekends post, I had to change my mind. That red!

That being said, two weeks ago, I had to stay at my parents’ place to babysit their pets. So I packed my bugs, mordants, fiber and got busy. I stayed true to weird weekends’ recipe when it comes to timing and the mordants I used. But I wanted to try dyeing two shades so I used following mordant proportions 30%/20% (Allum/Tartaric Acid) and 40%/10%.

I made four portions of my wool, 2 of them went in the 30%/20% mordant and the other two in the 40%/10% mordant. I put one portion wool prepared with each mordant in the the cochineals dye bath and then put the other two in a dye bath with madder root.

In the picture it is hard to see but the two sachets are 2 different shades of red, one is more burgundy and one a little more orange-red. The 40%/10% and 30%/20% wool in cochineals following recipe I’ve linked when it comes to timing. I did filter the cochineals with a coffee filter before I put the wool in!

Now the top strands are madder root. When those two came out of the dye bath at the same time the cochineal strands did, there was no difference between the two strands although the mordants had been different. They also came out lighter than I intended, so I decided that they simply hadn’t been in the dye bath long enough. Nonetheless, I put them to dry next to the cochineals and went about preserving the dyebath I had made.

Because I hadn’t put in any salt or acid in the dye bath it was good to be used again, so I put the residue from the coffee filter back into each dye bath and canned them. (The word canner makes me think of a tin can, which is not what I used). Now my jars were sealed, I stored them at home in my cupboard, awaiting the arrival of my own canner.

Lo and behold:

Now the canner had arrived and since I still wasn’t very happy with the madder root dyed wool, I grabbed my gloves and got back to it.

Firstly, I made some oxalic acid by boiling the rhubarb leaves. A small part of the acid I mixed with water and put one part of the madder root dyed wool in. That jar, together with the jar with acid I put in the canner for an hour and then left them out on the counter to cool down. The next day, when the wool had dried again (without rinsing), I put it in the cochineals dye bath, the other strand that I had left untouched, I put in a nylon stocking and put it in the madder root dye bath (with the madder root itself still in it). Both dye baths I warmed to 60°C for one hour and then left it until I came back home from work. Then I warmed it again for an hour, again left it to cool and then I pulled the wool out of both baths.

The result are the two strands at the top of my first picture. The strand I dyed with madder root only is the lightest color, but still I obtained a deep orange bordering red. The strand I dyed with cochineals after, became a shade of red lighter than the orange-red I had obtained with the cochineals only, but still darker than the madder root only one.

So, 4 shades of red, ranging from deep orange to burgundy, which I’m very pleased with. Hopefully sometime in the following weeks I’ll find some time to spin it as well :)

The C of Red

Château Cortils

Bont schaap
Bont schaap with highlights of orange dyed fiber.

It was a bit last notice, but I was at Château Cortils last weekend. They had an event on Sunday and Atelier Drie Linden was invited to demonstrate spinning. So Mom and I packed our stuff and sped off to Blegny.

It took some time to find where we needed to be because Debbie (the gps who is becoming of age) didn’t exactly know the street we were looking for. But when we arrived, it quickly became clear we were dealing with a crowd we hadn’t encountered before.

Being close to the Dutch border there were a lot of Dutch present but also a lot of the Liègeois as well, which I adored because I secretly still have a love for the French language. I love speaking it, although I butcher it undoubtedly.

Everybody was keen to discover what spinning was and what was going on in the Château Cortils, as it will soon become a cooperative full of people concerned with nature and local produce.

Most memorable though was the family I met that farms sheep and was looking into starting to spin wool. The mother wanted to learn to spin and would have wanted to come and learn from us, but since we are based in Rotselaar, it would be quite a bit of travel for just an hour or two of learning how to spin. So we agreed that if she went to fetch her wheel, we would help her kickstart her spinning addiction (because lets be honest, once you start, you can’t stop).

The wheel, though it was beautiful, was easily a hundred years old. It had been used because you could clearly see the marks on the wheel where the yarn had cut into the wood. The downsides of such an old wheel are that sometimes pieces ar missing or broken or parts have gotten bent because it hasn’t been used for so long and obviously hasn’t gotten its necessary reparations. Other things to consider are that old wheels are made by hand, meaning that the pieces are often unique, often you only have one bobbin and replacing parts either requires creativity or someone who can do some woodwork.

That being said, I explained this mother and her son how the wheel worked, or rather how it was supposed to work. Because even with some love and temporary bands of string, it was hard to get it to work properly. In short it would take a lot more love before it would spin as easily as my newer wheel would.

The family though was very happy with my explanations and gifted me in return a bag (a very large bag) of Hampshire Down wool. A sheepsbreed I’ve been wanting to put on my list of things I’ve spun.

So far, after having washed and dried this fleece, it’s still looking scrumptious and feels like heaven. To be honest, I can’t wait to start spinning this one. However, I’ll be very strict with myself and spin the rest of the Bont Schaap’s fleece.

And the Château Cortils? It really was a wonderful experience.

Château Cortils