Out of the Dye Pot: Rhodies and Iron

Originally posted Oct 16, 2015

I thought I’d try a couple more dye experiments before the weather gets too nasty.  I hope I’ll be able to do some of this outside since indoor dye stuff can make you feel ill…as I learned from the tansy experiment.  Tansy has been used as an insect repellent, and when you cook it, it concentrates the smell and makes it difficult to tolerate.  Nausea is a side effect.  Yep.  I was feeling a bit queasy.

So today’s experiment comes from this article that I found:  http://www.allfiberarts.com/2011/how_dye_rhododendron.htm, the use of rhododendrons for dye materials.  It just so happened that a knew a lady who owns a house with some 50 year old rhodie plants in the yard.  I went over there and, not knowing how many I’d need, I trimmed off a sack full of leaves from the tree in the front yard.

Referring to the instructions, I cut up a bunch of the leaves, most into 1″ to 2″ pieces, putting them into a mesh bag to keep the yarn and foliage separate during the dye process.  This bag I set into a pot of cold water.  The smell was getting overwhelming, so I placed it on the deck overnight.  I only used about half the leaves that I picked.  I may try a second dye bath with a different mordant later.

Many leaves and flowers tend to result in a yellow yarn, which gets kind of boring, so I wanted to try for a green.  Using the instructions, I followed them to make an iron mordant.  Taking my rusty nail water, I poured about a cup and a half of the iron water into a bowl of tap water and set the wool yarn into it (about 100 yards taken off a large skein). [Yes, this plastic bowl is designated for dye stuff…never mix dye stuff and food stuff!]

To be continued….

Yawn!  Ahhh!  That was great restful night!  So I left the leaves soaking in the water overnight on the deck.  I peeked at it and it looked like a green-brown soup.  Not attractive, but it looked like it was doing something.

In order to avoid having the smells and the potential toxic stuff in the house, I decided that I’d use the grill outside.  I set the pot on the grill and set it on medium to get it warmed up.  Later, I set it up to high.  Since the lid was open, I was losing a lot of heat and it was pretty cold outside, so to compensate…even though the directions said to keep it under 200 degrees–so not a full boil.  I left it on the grill for about an hour, checking on it periodically to make sure it wasn’t boiling, and at that last check, I realized that there was no heat.  Ran out of gas.  Ah well, best laid plans.  I moved it inside and let it simmer on low for 30 minutes or so with the windows open and the vent fan on.

I took the yarn and drained most of the iron liquid off and gently set it into the dye bath.  I poked it with the spoon and put the bag of leaves on top, letting it simmer some more.  After about an hour, I took my first peek…

It’s going green!!  I let it sit for another hour or so, checked again, but it looks like it’s not getting any greener.  It’s drip-drying on the deck and appears to be a light olive green.  I love it!

I let the leaves steep all day and mordanted another 100 yards of wool in alum.  I dropped that in the pot, just to see if it would come out yellow…unless some of the iron residue is still in the pot, then I may end up with something green or green-yellow.  We’ll see what the morning brings!