Dyeing with the door open

Rainbow dyed cotton warp.

I’ve worked like crazy to get my warp done last week, I didn’t even get to card or comb the wool I had planned to bring along. And I should have known, but the Saturday was so crazy busy that I didn’t even get to preparing the cotton warp for dying aka boiling it in soda ash for an hour. Let alone that I could take pictures.

I had loads of fun though, talking to people about what I was doing in the dye kitchen with my big pot of weird red stuff (cochineals) and later the brown stuff (the madder root). And explaining what techniques were used on the samples laid out concerning the dyeing process.

My dad and one of my nieces made the trip to Ghent to come and see what I was doing! It was really wonderful to see them. I spent far too much time talking about weaving…

Sunday however, I was so dog-tired, I had a brief one second thought about just staying in bed and let the other weavers muck about in the dye kitchen. But then I thought about maybe getting to dye my warp and checking on the wool I left in the madder root dye bath overnight. Needless to say, I was out of bed and on my way at 6 in the morning on a Sunday… (I’m crazy, I know)

Sunday was a lot calmer in terms of visitors, but a highlight in dyeing because I found time to put a part of my warp in soda ash for an hour AND I got to dye it as well. Loads of people were interested in what that brightly coloured yarn was doing next to the big pot of madder root…

I took the leftover dye home and dyed the rest of my warp at home. Which is still drying but is looking gorgeous.

drying rainbow warp.

I think I talked about this before, but in case I haven’t: I use synthetic dyes (Procion) for this rainbow dyeing. I use only red, blue and yellow and then mix my colors. In contrary to dyeing in a dye bath, this is more or less done cold. More or less because the cotton is boiled in mordant solution, lightly spun dry and then immediately painted. The salt solution (to urge the dye onto the yarn) that is sprayed on after an hour or so, is also hot and the soda ash solution you spray on to fixate when you’re done, is also hot. The cold thus refers to the fact that the cotton throughout the dyeing process is cooling down from being in the mordant but doesn’t get reheated.

I can’t wait to put it on my loom!

Dyeing with the door open


Some of you may know already, but every year the school where I’m studying hand-weaving holds an open door (I hope that’s a correct translation). It’s in Ghent, Belgium and it’ll be this weekend (I know, short notice, sorry).

I’ll be there mostly dyeing wool (cleaned fleece or maybe roving, maybe combed top, we’ll see how much I get done) and cotton (warp), I’ll be “printing” on weft. So there’ll be loads of stuff to see. There are really beautiful things to see on the looms of my fellow students. It is going to be amazing.

So tomorrow, I will start preparing all of my dyeing adventures for the weekend! I’m really excited about this. I’ve got loads of other things to show you as well, but that will probably have to wait until after this weekend. Unless, by magic, I have loads of spare time tomorrow (I don’t think so).

You can find all of the information here:

OPENDEUR Handwever - 3 t_m 5 jun '16
Opendeur CVO Gent, Martelaarslaan 13, 9000 Gent op vrijdag, zaterdag en zondag 3/4/5 juni 2016.

The C of Red

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

The shawl that wouldn’t end

It took a long time. It was a struggle to finish it. And now it is done.

Isager Tokyo Shawl

I’m glad it is over. It feels like I’ve knitted for ages on this shawl but my first post on this blog tells me that it has only been a month or so, it definitely feels longer.

I blocked it sometime last week and I’ve woven in the ends this weekend. And now I’m contemplating on what I’m going to do with it. I’m partial to keeping it, since it feels warm and woolly but it’s stil very light and shawl-y. I’m 100% sure I will never wear it as a shawl, maybe I’ll hide in it when I feel chilly. But it -most likely- will never leave the house if I keep it.

I might try blocking it properly once I’ve found a surface that will easily let me do that. Maybe then I’ll consider giving it to someone who I know will treasure it for what it is worth.

Anyway, once you understand the badly written dutch pattern, the shawl is an easy knit, suitable for knitting meetups, tv-watching and whatnot. Zero concentration needed. The only thing I’ve done is put a stitchmarker  on every k2tog on the row, so I wouldn’t forget to do that. Not that I never forgot and never had to go back and fix it. But at least the stitchmarker made me remember that I had to do something at that point in the row.

But enough about this one. I’m definitely done with it. Now I need something brighter, like the sock yarn that’s been teasing me for a whole month or the better part of the last two weeks, since I’ve gone through my stash. You’ll probably understand that I couldn’t help my self and cast on: one pair of socks (to knit on when commuting), the start of my sock yarn blanket (long term, no deadline project) and a definitely more brightly colored shawl. It’s all fingering weight yarn and exciting! More on this soon!

The shawl that wouldn’t end


Indigo dyebath with cotton.
Indigo dye bath with cotton.

I love dyeing way too much, I admit, I’m an addict… When my teacher mentioned we could take the indigo dye bath home, I couldn’t resist.

Firstly, indigo is a plantbased dye that cannot be dissolved in water. It is a rather expensive dye and it is gained through a peculiar process where its reaction to oxygen will cause it to form a deposit in the container. It is that deposit that you can buy as being indigo dye.

Dyeing indigo comes with some lovely chemical jargon, like reduction and oxidation. For the life of me, I can’t remember what the theory behind “reduction” is, but with indigo it means that the balance between the dye, the water, the soda ash and the glucose is just right and the bath will turn yellow (as shown in the picture above), this means the dye is dissolved and ready to attach itself to the cotton. When you remove the cotton from the bath, it will start to react with the oxygen in the air (oxidation).

On the right the warp dyed with indigo at school, on the left the cotton dyed with the leftover dyebath.
On the right the warp dyed with indigo at school, on the left the cotton dyed with the leftover dye bath.

Time to do it ourselves! I started dyeing a part of my warp as an exercise at school. But since indigo is an expensive dye and it would be a shame to let it go to waste, we could take it home with us. Now I live an hour train ride and a 15 à 20 minute bike ride from school, so when I left school I had a carefully wrapped parcel containing my indigo batch, my indigo dyed warp and my rainbow dyed warp. I’ve never been so careful driving home on my bike, afraid to spill the indigo dye bath all over the inside of my bike bag. Not that my pair of rainpants could get any more blue…

Anyway, I left the warp for another two hours in the heated dye bath last night. This morning I rinsed it, put it in the dryspinner and then left it out on a towel to dry. Then I had this wicked idea, I still had some soda ash left from previous dyeing adventures and I had discovered that agave syrup is basically only glucose and fructose, which makes it ideal for reviving my indigo bath.

You hear me coming, right? Yes, I had another skein of cotton laying around which I prepared with soda ash, I revived the indigo bath with soda ash solution and a teaspoon of agave syrup (which I stirred into the soda ash solution) and put the yarn in the bath (I’ve spun it dry before adding it to the bath).

The reduction was all of a sudden so much more prominent than with the original dye bath! The yarn however is one that dyes a little more difficult and being a leftover bath, there wasn’t that much indigo left in it. But I still managed a light blue with the leftover bath, which is exactly what I wanted.

I sense a little project coming soon with some indigo dyed yarn…


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

Rainbow dyeing the ikat warp

I told you about the ikat warp I was so excited about making, right? Well, this week we took it a step further. I asked my teacher if I could dye it using the rainbow dyeing technique we learned the week previous. The normal exercise would be to dye the ikat warp in a unique color, but since I already have practice with that, I wanted to try something a bit different.

Now, the thing with dyeing is that you have to wait to find out what exact colors you’ve created until after it has gone through the whole proces _and_ it has dried (unless you’ve got a whole color library ready to go). So as you understand, these are hugely important reasons to get out of bed early ;-)

So this morning I checked it and wow:

Rainbow dyed ikat warp
Rainbow dyed ikat warp of unbleached cotton, tied off with (natural) raffia ribbon.

Now “rainbow dyeing” as we use it at school isn’t really about dyeing a rainbow. It’s a sort of “uncontrolled” dyeing process, by which I mean that it will not give the exact same result twice. This is up for discussion though because you can recreate the colors and you can attempt to recreate the pattern in which you dyed, but the key for me is that I’m free to use as many colors as I want with just three stock dye solutions: yellow, magenta and cyan. Now, the cyan, wasn’t really cyan because of reasons and a little more royal blue, but the idea is the same.

I didn’t fancy mixing color solutions to create the colors I wanted because lets be honest, I’ve done that many times before. Now however I just wanted the stock solutions to create a color scheme for me. So I’ve put the yellow, magenta and blue where I wanted it to be and voila!


I tied of the ikat with raffia ribbon, right? Well, my reasoning is that since raffia is a plant and it roughly contains the “same” qualities as the cotton, I’m fully expecting it to not have blocked all the color out of the tied off areas. If I would have used synthetic raffia, I wouldn’t expect the dye to “bleed” through the tie off. Since I’ve only used natural raffia, I can’t compare (yet). Still, I was curious this morning and removed just one. Understand that I’m risking the wrath of my teacher because I am not to remove any of the ties until it is safely on my loom.

Undone ikat tie on the rainbow dyed warp.
Undone ikat tie on the rainbow dyed warp.

And behold: the area where I tied off the warp has taken a very faded yellow as opposed to the orange-pink area around it. Which is more or less what I expected and yet I’m curious what the rest of the warp will look like.

Next week we’ll be putting it onto the loom!

Rainbow dyeing the ikat warp


Offwhite cotton warp on a stone tile floor.
Cotton warp, tied off for ikat dyeing.

I’ve been stressed about things at work, trying to combine it with some (technical/administrative) work for Atelier Drie Linden and the last struggles remaining from my work as a consultant/independent developer. So I’ve been dog-tired last two or three weeks as a result of that. On top of that it does horrible things to my concentration at work, which makes me feel useless, which makes me feel bad, makes my sleep troubled and … you get it, it kinda feeds on itself until you pull out the plug.

So I took the week off to do things I like doing, like weaving. I’ve been wanting to do some weaving at home for some time now, but never really getting to it. And I haven’t been weaving at school either.

I’ve enrolled for the module “dyeing and binding off” a number of weeks ago, which is part of the weaving studies I’ve been doing for the past two years and a half. And I’ve been enjoying it so far. I had enrolled for that same module last schoolyear but due to circumstances I hadn’t been able to finish it, but now I’m determined to. Nothing is going to keep me from it.

So far, we haven’t gotten to weaving yet, but we’re getting closer. Last week we started off with ikat, our next to last part of our warp before we put it on the loom.

Ikat means binding off a part of our warp for dyeing, the places you tied off won’t be dyed. You can do this with your weft as well, but at school we’re only doing the warp for now.

It is something I’ve been meaning to try, just as I’ve been meaning to try “printing” on the warp when it is on the loom. The ikat was wonderful, the monotonous, repetitiveness of it is really good for emptying my mind. I had to suppress the urge to break out in song, something to accompany the work I was doing.

However, on the train ride home, I had the horrible realization that I had tied off the wrong part of my warp and would have to start over again. And with that, the satisfaction of having done something useful sapped right out of me.

Cotton treads on a warping board tied in packets with raffia ribbon.
One section of the warp being tied off with raffia ribbon.

This week however, after undoing all my work from last week (including winding the warp back into a ball), I realized that I hadn’t tied off the wrong side after all and that regardless I had to start from zero again because I had already undone everything. I wish I had this realization earlier… But never the less, I spent both Tuesday and Wednesday warping and binding of my warp.

At first, I found it uncomfortable to be binding off for ikat, but once I found a rhythm it was quite enjoyable. It’s just as “rhythmic” and repetitive as spinning if you want it to be and I find it is really good for emptying the head. At home, with the radio playing, I quite enjoyed singing while doing this work… some pedestrians passing by the window might have even caught me doing a dance step or two.



I haven’t written in a while, but to start off the new blog, I’ll talk about this new shawl I’m knitting. It’s a matter of rolling back into it.

Now, this shawl we’re talking about, was love at first sight. I was unsuspectingly visiting a yarn shop in Leuven, when it happened. I stepped outside, saw my mother -who had exited earlier- standing at the shop window looking up. And there it was the most interesting piece of knitwear I had seen all day, the Tokyo shawl from Isager.

Isager Spinni & Alpaca


I just had to bring it home! I had already three other projects on the needles (which is against my principles) but I just had to start this one. I opened the package, looked at the instructions and … frowned. The only instructions I had were obviously translated into Dutch, and aside from mentioning color A, B, C and D, which were obviously the Spinni colours, it lacked the information on what the Alpaca yarn was for. Clearly, for the amount of money I paid, a clear pattern was not included.

Ravelry saved me though, people who had knitted it before mentioned you needed to knit the two yarns together, the Spinni and the Alpaca. Eureka!

Now I’m quite a few rows into my knitting, nowhere near finishing, but enjoying it very much. It is quite an easy pattern, once you figured out what the instructions mean.

I can’t wait to show you the end result!