Saturday, January 30, 2010

Me and you and a berry named blue....

I got a super sweet white woven wool coat at the thrift store. While debating if I was going to completely cut it up or not, I decided to cut up the sleeves and leave the 'body' whole for now. However, after this experiment, the whole thing may soon become fodder for this exciting process. This is by no means an exhaustive post on dyeing, but just a way to experiment with it.

You need:
Frozen Blueberries (unsweetened)
Glass container with lid that can go into your microwave (VERY IMPORTANT)
100% wool fabric, cut into managable pieces
Water (tap is totally fine)
A fork
Paper towels
Air Freshener
Clothes you don't mind getting some spatters on.

OK. So start by making sure your wool pieces fit inside your container, then fill the container with water. Microwave for 1 minute, making sure the wool pieces all get completely soaked. Drain off the excess water, being careful not to burn your hands!

Without wasting much time, dump some frozen berries on to your wool! I used about 3/4 of a cup of berries and frozen water that had accumulated in the bag. They started melting almost immediately in the hot wool, which is totally fine.

If you want to make sure your pieces are all dyed to a uniform color, add water to cover. If you prefer a more random look, do not add more water! Cover your dish, and place in the microwave. Nuke for 1 minute, let rest for 30 seconds, stir the berries and wool with the fork, and repeat. You will hear some of the blueberries exploding and thank yourself for covering the dish.

Be prepared for a funky smell. The wool smells like a wet dog, and then you get the high sweet notes of the blueberries. It's real, real weird.

If you have sensitive family members, spray the air freshener.
Then tell them to buck up, you're making art!!!!

If you want a deeper, more intense color, nuke one more time. Otherwise, you can carefully take your container out of the microwave, and fish out the wool pieces with your fork. Rinse the wool until the water runs clear. The color will change slightly as you rinse, just make sure you squeeze and scrape off all the berry bits.

Don't get rid of those berries in the container, you can dye another set to a more subtle
color using the same process!!!

I even left some flowers overnight in the leftover juice and berries, they gave me the lightest colored flowers you can see in the photo, which represents 3 different 'batches' of dyed wool.

The finished color of the wool gets lighter as the wool dries, but with luck you can get a good range of purples and blues. Don't eat the berries after you've used them for dyeing. They may look tempting, I don't think it'd be a good idea.

I have used vinegar in dyeing yarn before, but I didn't have any in the house so I skipped that step. But I am going to try this again with blueberries and vinegar to see how that affects the color.

I wouldn't recommend trying this with very large pieces, as you really need the wool to boil to really set the colors. If you try this, please link back and let me know how it goes!


Heidi said...

I love the shaded effect you're getting! Kool-aid, a not so natural product, dyes felted wool really nicely. Natural dyes are a mystery to me. I would like to learn more about them. What else ya got?

becca jo said...

i've used kool-aid before to dye roving for spinning but it's cheaper to buy straight-up food coloring for small batches. you most def. need white vinegar for fixing those colors. my sister and i dyed some wool yardage for rug hooking and got some really gorgeous colors, but due to size constraints of a microwave, i wouldn't be able to do very large items.

this summer i'm going to try growing some dye plants in my garden. i got a great 70's book on it at ArtScraps in st. paul.