Natural Dyeing season has begun!
I've started dyeing Forage again, our line of eco-processed washable organic merino wool yarn. Our first dyes of the season were with fennel and marijuana.
Most things you read about dyeing with fennel will tell you the best color comes from the plant when it is in flower. It usually produces a dusky sage, which is gorgeous. However, here in Seattle we are drowning in fennel, and I knew there would be no harm in harvesting some young fennel and playing around. There would still be more than I could ever use come blooming time.
On May 22nd I harvested 13 pounds of fennel with the help of my partner, Joy. I pulled it up while they cut it down to size and shoved it in our bag. So that variations in soil and sunshine wouldn't affect the final colorway, I harvested bits from many different plants and microclimates, all within a single block radius. We grabbed a good mix of smaller shoots and larger branches.
I pre-mordanted eight skeins in alum, then took four of those and let them sit in a copper solution. My copper solution is a bunch of older copper pennies soaking in a standard white vinegar. This was a newer batch and had only been sitting for about a week, when I typically let it sit about a month before use. I think the copper solution was way too weak, and did not produce any results. The copper solution was roughly four cups, one per 4oz skein, with enough water to cover the yarn. This sat for two hours, then dried in the sun.
To the actual dyeing details! We managed to fit 13 pounds of fennel into my largest dye pot, covered with water, and heated it until it came to a rolling boil. I let it boil for a bit over an hour, until the fennel started to wilt. I removed it from the heat and let it steep overnight. In the morning, I transferred the dye bath to a seperate pot. I brought that to 180 degrees, added the yarn, and let it set for an hour. After that, I let it cool naturally, rinsed, and dried!
The result? A beautiful sunshiney, buttery yellow. There was no difference between the copper and non copper treated yarn, so they are being sold as a single dyelot.
I've spent a decent amount of time googleing and trying to find records of someone dyieng with marijuana, and just couldn't seem to find anyone. It is legal in Washington, so I tracked down a grower and asked for any sort of foliage I could get my hands on. After a short wait, I got my hands on four or five full plants that were 2-3 months old. These were juvenile and were not old enough to produce the buds that we smoke, but they had definitely started growing, I could see the little baby buds here and there. These had been culled and left to dry for about a week before I could get to them. I had roughly 1.5 pounds of foliage to use.
I decided to mordant with straight alum. I pre-mordanted my yarn, prepared my dye bath just like the fennel. At the end of the two day process, I dried the yarn in the sun to test the colorfastness, and was pleasantly surprised to see that the color holds up well in the sun! It produces a caramel like color, and would be a great warm-neutral base for colorwork or stripes. I can't wait to see what happens with copper and iron come into play.