On Wednesday, 4. February I run a wool dying workshop with onion skins with Bettina Holland, a 2.year student. Myself, I am new to natural dying and find a fascinating process as the is always a “surprise” element in there! I love dying with onion skins as it is so simple, no mordants maybe a bit of pre-soaking with vinegar and the dye bath can be tipped out to water plants and in an ideal world the exhausted skins could go on the compost! We used a rather large pot and there for ended up with a fairly pale color. When I was dying wool skeins and flees last summer at home, I used a smaller domestic sauce-pan and archived a strong burnt orange colour.
We dyed skeins of wool and unspun fleece. I also put in a small skein of pale indigo dyed wool and it came out in a gentle mottled and variegated tone.
As fascinating as the dying processes are I intent to keep to a very selective range. I am interested in Woad and Weld, blue and yellow and there for green as almost human input to the natural sheep fleece colours.
This year I intend to plant in gardens of some of my supportive friends around Penzance some Woad and Weld, in order to experience the effect of working with fresh plants rather then with powder.
The dying process opens of new avenues for exploring textures and carding dyed fleece with undyed fleece.
In the carding waste was for example, some reddish brown Alpaca and I carded it with white and greys, mixing the silky soft alpaca with more wire wool! it gives a very unique yarn and it is interesting to spin.