The Journal for Weavers Spinners and Dyers

Solar Dyeing in my polytunnel....

by Christina Chisholm

Solar Dyeing in my polytunnel....

Solar Dyeing in my polytunnel....

My polytunnel, normally occupied by vegetables at various stages of production, tends to get quite warm/hot during the summer months, so is an ideal location for solar dye jars.

Here I've used some old demijohns (note - never to be used for wine making, or any other culinary purposes, again!). As well as using the (free) heat of the sun, I've also used exhausts from natural dyebaths to dye the Wensleydale tops. The dyebath on the left is exhaust from a madder bath; the other is exhaust from a barberry bark bath. Each should give a subtle colour. The latter is a substantive dye and required no mordant, so I simply diluted the retained exhaust with hot water, fixed string onto the end of approx 1 metre of clean, soaked-out Wensleydale wool tops using a lark's head knot, then immersed the top into the demijohn, tying the other end of the string onto the handle. A quick swirl with a clean rod to mix the dye with the wool, an old piece of towel in the neck of the jar to prevent dust....and all I now need is time. I'll leave it there for a couple of months, slowly taking up the colour from the dyebath, and rinse and post the results here around July.

I followed the same procedure for the madder jar, however as madder is an adjective, not a substantive, dye, a mordant was needed. I weighed the top before soaking, calculated how much alum I would need (based on 8% to wof), and dissolved the small quantity required in boiling water in the demijohn before proceeding with preparing the dyebath.

 A low cost, low effort, way to dye - and the vegetables don't seem to object!

Do you have any practical dyeing tips? Do share them here!

Christina Chisholm

by Christina Chisholm

Categories: Dyeing Natural Fibres

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