Saturday, July 25, 2015

Natural Dye Day: Saffron and Pecan Shells Recipe and Tutorial

 The same skein, dyed with pecan shells, under 2 different light sources, artificial and natural.  Both are accurate- the vibrancy dye from pecan shells is very sensitive to light, but thus far the skein has NOT faded in any way. 

Okay, so I had a previous post about natural dyeing, about lemongrass. I had also written one earlier this year about pecan shells, but the mobile app lost it all and I couldn't be bothered to retype it all.  Which is really a shame, because it also held my thoughts about having just gotten into spinning a couple weeks prior, and I wanted that to reflect on. 

So again, here we go; dyeing with pecan shells. SHELLS. Not the husks, as you may have seen on natural dye lists. When  I did this, I could find nothing on dyeing with pecan shells, anywhere. The one reference to it I found online was someone saying that you dye with pecan husks, not pecan shells, and that the shells should be expected to have no colour. But I know nature holds numerous surprises, and that chemistry of pigmentation, like all chemistry, is complicated.  So I ignored that post, and set pecan shells to boil, expecting a clear brown colour but knowing that there night be a surprise. And there was. I got a strong, somewhat clear pinkish brown, or dusky rose.  And I dyed superwash combed top with it, and it was beautiful. 

Today, I did not dye with pecan shells, but I did extract the dye from them to make sure that first time had not been a fluke.

But anyway, if you want to know my process for dyeing with pecan shells, it's pretty straightforward and works like any acid dyeing process for protein fibers such as wool and alpaca.  If you already have a good dye process, extracting the dye from toasted pecan shells is in steps 2a and 2b. If you are still exploring, feel free to read the whole tutorial and use what works for you! 

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Dye Process/Tips: 1)  I let my yarn soak in vinegar overnight.  Not too much and not measured, just what is maybe about 1/4 cup/6 cL of vinegar in a little tub of maybe a liter and a half of water?  Whatever your usual acid concentration is.  I let this soak overnight, because I usually do cold dyeing, and even if I don't I've just found that it helps colourfastness.  BUT, that's because when I don't cold dye it's because I get impatient with my cold dyeing process and hot dye midway through it. 
Skein of Berroco Folio doing an overnight vinegar soak in an old Nutella jar

2a) I extract the dye from the pecan shells with just a handful put into boiling water- the colour is very strong!  It's surprising, but you only need a small handful in a large pot to get a deep, intense colour.  My hands are tiny, and I've got 2 large pickle jars of dye stock solution now thanks to the pigment's intensity. 
February's dye pot of pecan shells.  Today's was much smaller.

2b) Double, double toil and trouble, fire burn, and cauldron bubble!  Basically, boil for a good long while- I do about 30 minutes, then simmer on low for 15 more.  Some people simmer longer to get all the pigments leached out into solution, some let the dye stock soak overnight for the same purpose.  I do the soak overnight.  I have stored the solutions both in a dark, cool drawer and in the refrigerator.  I do not know how long they can last in a cupboard, as the longest time I have kept dye stock solution tucked away without refrigeration is a month in winter.
3 extractions of pecan dye stock solution- told you it had a strong colour!  Left: No overnight soak, just boil 15 minutes and rest 30 minutes in the pot.  Middle: Boil 15 minutes, let simmer and 30-45 minutes, sit overnight, pour.  Left: Boil 15 minutes, let simmer 45 minutes, sit 1 hour, pour into jar.

3) To dye your fiber, plunge into a solution of the dye solution plus, if you need it, water- make the dye stronger than the colour you want in your yarn.  I usually pour my vinegar soak solution into my dye solution.  Make sure the solution is THE SAME TEMPERATURE as your vinegar soak is, unless you are using superwash or a yarn from a breed like Suffolk.  Even then I'd not shock the yarn.  If it is fiber, be extra gentle with it when you push it and squish it down to get totally soaked.

4) If you hot dye, perform your usual temperature process here.  If you haven't hot dyed before but want to, up the temperature slowly to just boiling and letting your yarn simmer for about an hour, then turn off the stove but leave over heat.  If using the microwave, let it sit there for an hour or so.  If you want to cold dye like me, I heat up the solution to just warm, then I cover and let my yarn or fiber sit there overnight. 

5) After the dye soak, rinse your yarn or fiber until the water runs clear.  For fiber, I put it in a large strainer and gentle run water over it indirectly, not directly.  I just let the water run over my hand and sprinkle it over my fiber, squeezing gently.  To quote Natalie Redding of Namaste Farms, what makes wools felt is detergent+temperature change+agitation.  Don't use soap yet, don't shock your fiber, and you may squeeze gentle so long as you don't manhandle it.  I swirl it, squeeze it, pull it, etc., but carefully. 

6) Once water runs clear, you can add your soap and rinse your yarn or fiber.  Remember to keep the water temperature constant, or to let it change steadily to prevent felting.  This step will make sure that there are no leftover smellsies on your precious hand-dyed yarn or fiber. 

7) Hang your yarn or fiber up to dry. 
Superwash merino fiber dyed with pecans, and the (newbie) yarn spun from it.  I splashed on food colouring at assorted points in the 75 grams of top. It spread and the pecan-only parts looked like they had disappeared, but upon spinning I was delighted to find that the food colouring did not penetrate all the way, and the finished yarn is mostly that pinkish brown tone from the pecan shells, with some spots of colour throughout.

Disclaimer: Remember, this is just how I dye with pecans.  You should find the process that works best for you, then extrapolate the portions you need from other people's tutorials, such as how to get the pecan shell dye out in mine, if you already have a dyeing process.  So long as your final product taught you something and/or is useable, no dye job is a failure!

Saffron dyeing:
This one is easier.  I happened upon some old, spilled saffron in our spice cabinet, and decided to use it.  I also happened upon, which told me that if I see somewhere that saffron is a fugitive dye, then the author was likely confusing saffron with safflower.  

I wanted to dye my Suffolk 3-ply yellow, so I put a pinch of saffron in a water bottle to make a saffron "tea", AKA saffron dye stock solution.  This is what it looked like at first:
...and then 2 minutes later:

WOW, right?  I knew the dye was supposed to leach out fast, but WOW.  The solution got darker, as I let it steep overnight, along with letting my handspun soak overnight in its vinegar bath, and then I poured some saffron stock solution into my container, swirled, let sit for an hour, got impatient, and so microwaved the yarn container for 10 minutes, then let dye for an hour and came back.  I did the water run clear and got this beauty:
 Same skein of yarn, different light sources.  The left is almost no light, the right is natural + artificial light.  In most lights it looks like the right.  It's very weird, but I like the effect.

Happy yarning!  Au revoir!~

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