Natural Dyeing with Onion Skins and Black Beans

Gosh, it has been ages since I posted anything, not because I have not been doing anything, my two daughters got married in quick succession…three weeks apart! However, just prior to that I did some dyeing with onion skins. The first batch was with red onion skins, no mordant. The second was with ordinary onion skins, again no mordant. DSC_0241 DSC_0231

I have heard you can get a bluey green with red onion skins but I was unsuccessful. The second pic is slightly more yellow than in real life because of the sunshine that day!

Black beans
Black beans

Determined to try and get a blue I then experimented with black beans. Now the first thing I did was that I boiled the beans, and used an alum mordant. The result was that it produced a pale grey turquoise, on the top of the picture. However I also cold dyed some silk ribbon with the same mix and they came out lilac. I then read that you shouldn’t boil the beans as that DSC_0264

produces a grey so I didn’t and got a rather dull colour bath, actually the same as before.

It looked so boring I wondered if a spot of tin might brighten it. The colour change was quite spectacular. DSC_0263

That said the change in the actual fleece was a marginal improvement on lilac (to the left above). I then tried a copper mordant, which made no difference whatsoever. However I made a fresh batch of dye, and added copper to the dye batch and got more of an olive green (to the right). As you can see all three colours are quite pretty, but none of them are blue! I gather you can get a good blue if you use Superwash wool, but it strikes me as rather counter productive to use commercial yarn. I found it difficult to get a deep colour but was quite happy with the outcome. Now it was interesting that wool and silk produced different colours from the same dye pot. It seems to me that both the chemical composition of the yarn and the ph of the water are fairly critical. That may explain why, when I have read threads about black beans used in dyeing, there seems such a variation in colour. I could try using distilled water, I used rainwater that had run off the roof, and that might have altered the pH. However buying distilled water in sufficient quantity could prove problematic. If I accidentally gather rain water straight into a container, rather than a run off. I could try to see if that made any difference! The breed of sheep were2015-05-22 08.06.16

Portland, a rare breed. Here is a not very good pic of them being sheared. I was mortified when a horn came off of one of the lambs during shearing. it bled an aweful lot but was reliably informed that they grow back!


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