Friday, 12 December 2014

New workshops! Felting at the Make It shop

I've been having some fun with needle felting recently - it's a fab way to make quick and easy gifts and decorations without needing lots of expensive materials or equipment. And of course, it wouldn't be fair to keep all the fun to myself so I've been running some workshops, too :-)

It's always lovely when a new crafty venture opens but especially lovely when it's a friend's latest adventure! Danielle of Rubbish Revamped fame has just opened a great new shop in Chorlton. The Make It! Shop is packed with craft supplies and there is an exciting timetable of craft workshops and taster sessions if you fancy a couple of hours trying a new skill or making something special.

Last week we were making cute needlefelted robins and gorgeous Christmas ornaments. I'm afraid my camera was having a bit of a meltdown so the photos aren't great, but I thought you might still like to see some of the lovely pieces the groups made.

I'll be running another needlefelting workshop in January - join me at the Make It! Shop on 10th January and make one of these cute owls and a stylish brooch/corsage.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Q&A's - Is there are white dye that I can use to create lighter colours on my dyed yarns and fabrics?

In short, no! White fabric paint, yes, but not an actual white dye as such. So if you want to make a pastel colour the simple answer is to use less dye in relation to the weight of goods (fabric/fibre/yarn etc.) being dyed. 

Creating pastels - immersion dyeing
For "immersion" or solid colour dyeing (where the goods are to be dyed a single colour in a dyebath), reducing the amount of dye powder or dye solution in relation to the weight of goods will lighten the eventual shade. It can take a significant reduction, especially for very pale pastels and you may be panicking that you have barely any colour in the bath but have faith!

Dyes vary in their concentration and strength depending on the dye type, the brand and even the colour. The goods (the thing you are dyeing) can also affect the take up of the dye.

As an example, with our procion mx dyes, this dove grey only requires 0.1g of black dye powder per 100g of yarn. Here you can see the colour on a pure wool chunky yarn:

And this is the same shade on our (sadly discontinued), handspun silk/angora goat down:

Note how the different yarns use the same dye formula and method but the colour looks quite different (even allowing for photography)  which shows the importance of factoring in both the nature of the item being dyed as well as the dye itself.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Q&A's - Can I re-dye a garment to cover a bleach mark or fading?

Unlike paints which are often opaque, dyes are transparent. This means that the dye will "overlay" the original colour but the original colour will affect whatever dye is placed on top of it.

For example, if a yellow sweater is overdyed with blue, some of the original yellow will remain visible and the final result will have a yellow cast (giving a more or less green shade). Depending on the relative depth of shade of the two colours this may be more or less obvious. A sunshine yellow dye overdyed with a bright turquoise is likely to retain much of the yellow tone, giving a chartreuse to lime green. A royal blue on the other hand may produce a deeper forest green, although if the base colour is very pale it may be very close to blue.

If the original colour is very pale the finished shade will be correspondingly less affected but may still carry a cast of the original.

So, why is this relevant to stains? Well, bleach marks and fading are just areas of different colour to the original shade. For this reason, when overdyed the dye will not give the same shade over the entire garment but will give differing colours on the bleached/faded and the undamaged areas.

To address this, it may be possible to build up the colour in the stained area by spot dyeing then overdyeing.
  1. Make sure the garment has been thoroughly rinsed in cold water to remove any remaining bleach.
  2. Choose a dye suitable for the fibre content of your garment.
  3. Make up a small amount of the dye in a beaker or jar.
  4. Test the colour by painting the dye onto a coffee filter paper or piece of kitchen paper. What you're aiming for here is the tone of the original shade not the depth of the shade - we'll be building up the colour so we can worry about this later. (I'll be covering colour picking and blending in a future post).
  5. Place a pad beneath the patch to be dyed to absorb any excess dye. An old towel or thick wad of kitchen paper should be fine as long as the dye can't reach any other part of the garment.
  6. Add any fixer as required for the dye (most likely a mild alkali for plant fibres, a mild acid for animal fibres).
  7. Use a small piece of sponge, dip it in the dye solution and squeeze out most of the liquid. 
  8. Starting in the centre of the stain, apply the dye by pressing the sponge gently over it. Gradually move outwards until there is no dye left on the sponge. 
  9. Re-dip and repeat the process - work slowly - you can add more dye but you can't take it away!
  10. Just before you reach the edge of the stain, start feathering out the colour, lessening the amount of dye. You should aim for a soft edge that slightly overlaps the original. A crisp edge will be more noticeable.
  11. Allow this first layer to dry as the colour will dry a couple of shades lighter.
  12. Repeat as required, drying between each layer. If the colour is still very pale, paste up a little more dye powder with a small amount of water and add to the solution.
  13. You may decide at this point that the colour is close enough in which case there's just fixing the dye to think about. Refer back to the instructions on your dye. If it's a plant fibre such as cotton, it's likely that you will only need to leave the garment (cover the dyed area with clingfilm to keep it damp) overnight and then rinse. 
  14. If it's an animal fibre such as wool, it will almost certainly need heat. In this case, dampen the rest of the garment to prevent the heat burning the wool. Try to avoid getting water onto the dyed area. Wrap the garment in clingfilm, place it uncovered in a microwaveable dish and put a beaker of water alongside the garment. This will create some extra steam without overwetting the garment. Carefully microwave it for 30 seconds-1 minute at a time until it is hot but not scorching. If you can, arrange it so the dyed area is on the outer part of the bundle.
  15. Once it's hot, allow it to cool and rinse. 
  16. This process can be repeated within reason. If you wish you can then dye the whole garment (I'll be covering dyeing garments in a later post).
  • Only add the fixer before you are going to start using it as it will start acting straightaway. This is particularly with plant fibre dyes which should be used within a few hours of adding the fixer. (Animal fibre dyes will keep longer even after the fixer has been added). 
  • Cosmetic sponge wedges are great for applying dye or cut a corner from a kitchen sponge - but remove the scrubby part first!
  • No microwave? Put the clingfilmed garment in an ovenproof dish, cover and cook on a low heat for 20 mins. Check and return to the oven if it isn't hot enough. To avoid the garment burning, put a beaker of water alongside it in the dish to create some steam.
Note: This kind of dyeing isn't an exact science and you should be aware that it may not achieve the desired result. My usual advice is that if the damage isn't very obvious or if the garment could be upcycled/altered to hide the damage, this may be preferable. If the garment will be going to the tip if it isn't dyed or if you want to give it a try, go for it!
Important: Health and Safety
Always read the health and safety guidelines provided with your dye before you begin and follow them carefully.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

We've been on the telly :-)

You may recall that earlier in the year I had a great time being filmed at Armley Mills Industrial Museum by the BBC for a new series, Glorious Gardens from Above. The programme showcased our Growing for Colour project - a community dye plant and edible garden - maintained and nurtured by Hyde Park Source and their group of enthusiastic volunteers and there was a short piece by yours truly showing our heritage dyeing group dyeing knickers (I know) with a selection of plants from the garden.

The series is now airing and our episode is part 4, currently available on BBC iplayer here. It will only be available for 4 weeks though, so don't delay!

If you're a gardening enthusiast you'll no doubt have heard of the show host, Christine Walkden. Her passion for the gardens she visits is amazing and she visits some beautiful gardens during the course of the series - well worth watching! (and no, we didn't get to go in the hot air balloon).

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Armley Mills Dyeing Project - Dyeing begins!

A great day yesterday at Armley Mills producing the first samples from the Gott recipe book. We tried 3 different recipes and although we had to do a bit of tweaking of the recipes (distilling sulphuric acid and nitric acid weren't really in the spirit of the session!) we got some great results.

Scaling down the quantities was a challenge - the recipes have little information about the quantity of goods dyed by each recipe so I did some scaling down based more on using small amounts of ingredients and seeing what we could dye! I did calculate the right ratio of ingredients if not an accurate wof:wog (weight of fibre: weight of goods). As a result the colours were certainly in the right ballpark albeit pretty intense and there was plenty left in the baths. I'm sure this wouldn't have been the way dyehouses would have operated as it would have been very wasteful. This leads to questions about whether dyebaths were expected to exhaust after each bath, whether a vat would be used for each shade/range of shades and topped up? If there's a dyehouse dyer in your family history, maybe you could get in touch and let me know?

So, a great start with more excitement to come hopefully!

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Dyeing al fresco!

A good summer has had an added, unexpected benefit - al fresco workshops!

Rachel's lovely shop at Sitting Knitting just outside Birmingham is in a beautiful old building but it's even nicer when we can take the tables, pots and pans outdoors.

Introduction to dyeing was the order of the day and the group produced a super range of sample cards and some very inspiring mini-skeins.

By the afternoon they were in full swing producing beautiful colourways....

Beautiful, no? And if you'd like to see more, including some lovely finished projects, have a look at Rachel's facebook page

Thank you to Rachel for a lovely day - we'll look forward to seeing you again soon!

Monday, 7 July 2014

Summer School 2015 - The Dyer's Recipe Book

Hand-dyed wool samples with synthetic dyes
 I'm absolutely thrilled to announce that I'll be tutoring again at the Association of Guilds of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers Summer School next August (2015) :-)

My course this time will be an in-depth focus on making your own dye recipe book, creating repeatable colours and colour theory using synthetic dyes. There will, of course, be lots of scope for putting your knowledge into practice, trying out some fun dyeing techniques and generally having a great time with colour exploration but if you're keen to get a good grounding in predicting and planning colourways, this will be an ideal course for you!

You'll find lots more info about the venue, prices, course programme and how to book on the Summer School blog here. For information about the Association in general (and some great pics of last Summer School) the main website is here.

And, if you'd like to see some of the photos from my last Summer School courses, there's a tiny taster selection here

If you've never been to a Summer School before it is an amazing experience - a whole week of textile exuberance - expect to see spinning wheels round every corner, knitters in every nook and cranny, weavers beavering away into the wee small hours and wall-to-wall chatter about all things textile-related! Heavenly!

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Growing for Colour Project at Leeds Industrial Museum

Growing for Colour is a new project I'm really excited to be involved with. The project is a collaboration between Leeds City Council, Hyde Park Source and DT Craft & Design (that'll be me, then!) to convert part of the outdoor space at the Leeds Industrial Museum site at Armley Mills into a colour garden, filled with interesting traditional dyeplants. Working with volunteers we'll be clearing the garden area, planting lots of exciting dyeplants, and dyeing fabrics and yarn with our homegrown and locally foraged dyestuffs.

Yesterday we had our first session. The sun shone bright and warm and the rain the previous night had nicely softened the ground, perfect for weeding and digging!

We had a bit of work to do refreshing the beds and borders after winter, and some of the plants have made themselves very much at home!

 A quick survey of the beds did reveal some tentative shoots of goldenrod,


and a couple of possible woad plants.

A nice healthy crop of madder was also spotted so I think we can look forward to some good reds!

I've been busy taking photos so I can do a bit of plant-spotting before next week as some of the plants aren't quite big enough to identify yet, although there may be some hollyhocks. We also have dyer's chamomile enjoying the spring warmth in planters along the front of the mill cottages.

A spot of seed planting after a picnic lunch courtesy of the Armley Town Street Hub's Pay as You Feel Cafe

After a hard day's work, our borders are almost ready for planting and our first crop of seeds is sown...

If you'd like to join us, simply come down to the Museum between 11am and 3pm on Tuesday. All materials are provided but bring a packed lunch and outdoor clothing (we've booked sunshine but you just never know!). Our next session will be preparing our yarns and fabrics for dyeing, doing a spot of foraging for local, wild-growing dyestuffs on the site and having a look at what you can re-purpose from your kitchen and cupboards to produce lovely colours - see you next week!

Monday, 20 January 2014

Car boot-y!

Car boot sales are always fun (even if only for those "oh my, we have/had one of those" moments!). But just occasionally they turn up something really interesting. And this was my little gem, picked up in Cheshire.....

What a terrific little haul of old dyes :-) !

Local dyes developed and made in Bolton...

Of particular interest is that these dyes are shown as dyeing both cottons and wools - an early fibre reactive dye perhaps? Must research this further....

Likewise these Fairy Dyes, manufactured in Glasgow, also refer to dyeing both wools and cottons, so clearly it wasn't a one-off. It's amazing that the dye is in tiny little glass test tubes with cork stoppers.

These dyes are possibly older? I haven't heard of this company so will need to do some more digging to find out.

 I'm guessing the jiffy dyes must date to around the 40's judging by this little message on the label...
Isn't it incredible how much we take for granted? And how every little bit of recycling really did count.
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