A couple weeks ago, my friend and occastional shopgirl alternate Chloë mentioned that she was interested in trying out some solar dyeing, after reading an article about it (“Kissed by the Sun: The art of Solar Dyeing” by Caitlin ffrench) in the most recent issue of Knitscene, and wondered if she could use my sunny front window as the locale for this endeavour. I hadn’t read the article yet, but I like having new and interesting things in the windows, so I said Sure! We struck a deal wherein I would provide the yarn and the jars (since I have quite a few kicking around from my hardcore canning days), and she would prepare them and take photos along the way…
The materials were collected: yarn, jars, mordant, dyestuffs, and the ever-important instructions!
We chose yarns as neutral or undyed as possible, and in a range of different fibers. From left, two skeins of Diamond Luxury Collection Pima Lino Lace (cotton/linen blend) in “Natural”, two skeins of Universal Cotton Supreme (100% cotton) in “Ecru”, two skeins of Louet MerLin (merino/linen blend) in “White”, and one skein divided into two of Briggs and Little Heritage (100% wool) in “Washed White”.
Litre-size jars were used, because pint jars would have been too small to fit a whole skein of yarn *and* the dye.
Check to make sure your yarn skeins *will* fit into the jars you’ve chosen. Even 50g skeins take up a surprising amount of space!
Dyestuffs were collected: onion skins donated graciously from friends, plus tumeric, paprika, hibiscus, black currant tea, and black tea.
Yarns were pre-soaked for at least twenty minutes to ensure they were evenly saturated, and therefore evenly damp, so that the mordant and dyes would strike at the same time, providing more even colour.
Prepare the mordant. Chloë chose Alum because it’s reasonably easy to find (Bulk Barn!) and also relatively safe, though rubber gloves should still be worn when handling it. It’s also the one recommended in Caitlin ffrench’s article.
The dyestuffs are added to the jars…
And then the yarns. Where dyestuffs were repeated (turmeric, black currant/hibiscus tea, and onion skins), the yarns were changed, so we’ll be able to compare how different fibers absorb different dyes.
And a nice, warm, sunny spot is the final ingredient! We’ll be turning, shaking, stirring, and topping-up the water in each jar over the next few weeks. It’s difficult to estimate how long we’ll have to wait, but these colourful jars are certainly attracting a lot of attention from passersby on the street!
They are accompanied in the window by my recently completed Citron shawlette, which kindof resembles a little slice of sunshine, doesn’t it? Stay tuned for updates in the SUMMER SOLAR DYEING ADVENTURE! (and big thanks to Chloë for developing this project and documenting the process!)