My Cheating Ways

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More confessions of a fibre strumpet I’m afraid 😉

I do love the word strumpet by the way, what word(s) do you like the most?

I digress.

Sorry.

A couple of weeks ago now, I spent a beautiful Saturday afternoon enjoying myself in the sun with some of the lovely ladies from the Weavers, Spinners and Dyers Guild playing with indigo dye in Bunmahon on the beautiful Copper Coast.

Most of us will no doubt, have something in our wardrobe dyed using indigo (probably in it’s synthetic form) as it’s the dye of choice for most denim fabric as it’s extremely resistant to fading.  My husbands 12 year old favourite pair of jeans are still very blue, they’re just falling apart, proof if ever it were needed.

Indigo for those of you that are interested, is an ancient plant dye, with evidence of it’s use going back to the 3rd millennium BC and it’s still being used all over the world today.  Dyeing with natural indigo can be quite labour intensive and although using synthetic indigo still requires a lot of steps, it’s much easier and quicker to get going and we only had the day after all.

The synthetic indigo powder came from George Weil and we followed the instructions given by Vivien Prideaux in her book – A Handbook of Indigo Dyeing.  Once mixed and ready the dye bath requires constant, steady heating for an hour or so before you can add your fibre or cloth, which provided the ideal opportunity to indulge in a little lunch of salad, home made hummus and rolls, followed by Irish strawberries and ice cream 🙂

Each of us had made up mini skeins of different yarns (about 20g each), so we could have fun observing how different fibres reacted to the dye.

My yarns were all commercially manufactured yarns, which can sometimes mean they’ve been bleached and may not take the dye, but I was under pressure and it was touch and go whether I’d actually make it on the day.  Happily, all of the ones I’d picked took some of the dye and the result is a range of beautiful, blue hues.

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From left to right the fibres are Ramsdale pure wool, merino, merino/cashmere/synthetic blend and lastly a bamboo/cotton blend (2 of them as I’ll probably use it as a warp thread).

I love the way the different yarns have reacted to the indigo.  The Ramsdale, which is probably my favourite, was a mid grey to begin with, whilst the other three yarns were off white/cream before dyeing.  All of my samples have had a couple of rinses, but I’m not sure if the bamboo/cotton blend would actually remain blue if I was to rinse it again.

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I’m thinking of weaving a little wall hanging, or maybe even knitting it in linen stitch so it resembles weaving.  For now I’m just enjoying steeling glances at the jar of mini blue hanks sitting on my desk.  It’ll be interesting to see how the other guild members use their samples, perhaps they might let me take a photo or two and if so I’ll be sure to post them here.

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As is so often the case when you’re enjoying yourself, the day drew to a close all too quickly and we were soon off and on our way home.  With the sun still high in the sky, I couldn’t resist the temptation to pull in near a little pebbled cove, where I found a bum size rock to sit on and took my shoes off to let the heat from the warmed stones radiate through my feet.

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I even found some lovely driftwood branches, bleached white from the sea and sun, which I intend to use in a wind chime project sometime soon.

 

If you want to know more about indigo dyeing, the history, how to and where to purchase it, these are the websites I’ve found useful.  I’d also recommend Vivien’s book that I’ve mentioned above.

George Weil

Wild Colours 

Instructables

Happy Knitting!

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