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Hand Dyeing Workshop

Posted 10/2/2009 8:11pm by Eugene Wyatt.

Turkey Red

The farm has begun to dye again; we have new colors at the farm stand and online too.  Dominique has done the most exquisite Turkey Red I've ever seen and she got it by adding CaCO3 to the Madder dye bath.  Madder is pH sensitive and gives the truest red in hard water when alkaline. Calcium carbonate hardens the water and buffers the bath keeping the pH high during the dyeing period.  Kudos Dominique!

We also have Indigo over Cochineal giving shades of  purple and Indigo over Weld giving shades of green; stop in Saturday to say hello and take a look.

Posted 1/29/2009 2:46pm by Eugene Wyatt.
Winter Dye Studio

I look at the yarn colors in the stand on Saturday afternoon to see what's been sold to determine what we'll dye the coming week.  We needed lime greens, teals and dark indigos. 
 
Dominique washed 16 lb. of yarn on Monday to mordant on Tuesday to dye on Wednesdaybut an ice storm brought freezing rainon Thursday the sun shone; it was a good day to dye and a good day to be a sheep. 
 
A 14-24 mm Nikon zoom lens at 19 mm distorts perspective: it appears that I'm standing several yards from Dominique but in reality the lens is less than 2 feet away from her  To use an ultra-wide angle lens properly you must not be shy about getting close to your subject.
 
Posted 11/7/2008 7:22am by Eugene Wyatt.

 Osage & Logwood

Envy Green
Logwood Gray is a powerful dye extract; above we see it at 0.5% WOF and below at 1.5% WOF, both mixed with Osage Orange at 4% WOF (see Natural Colors for the sources of the extracts).  These gray-greens are good guy-colors, girls, perfect for gift scarves.  Buy skeins of Envy Green & Flannel in the Naturally Dyed Yarn Department of the Yarn Store or dye them yourselves according to instructions in the Natural Dye Workshop.
 
Flannel

Flannel

Posted 10/30/2008 5:38pm by Eugene Wyatt.
 
Hallows
This light madder was dyed (see Immersion Dyeing) by using the dye bath leftover from dyeing a dark madder, 12% WOF*.  Hallows looks like it was dyed in a 4-5% WOF madder bath which could have been prepared separately—but why—when the hot pot was there and ready to dye.  Even though you never know what strength of color you'll get—which is the fun of natural dyeing—using a dye bath twice is an economical and time saving  way to get another hue.  Madder baths need watching, they must never boil or you'll lose the color. 
 
*% of dye extract to the weight of fiber.
 
Buy skeins of Hallows in the Naturally Dyed Yarn Department of the Yarn Store. 
 
 
Du Vin
An indigo over-dye of madder (see Natural Dye Workshop, Indigo Blue Pt. 1, 2 & 3)   Buy skeins of Du Vin in the Naturally Dyed Yarn Department of the Yarn Store.

 
Only the Shadow knows
Mystery
An indigo over-dye of cochineal, you never know what you'll get.  See Natural Dye Workshop, Indigo Blue Pt. 4  Buy skeins of Mystery in the Naturally Dyed Yarn Department of the Yarn Store.
 
Posted 10/28/2008 6:33pm by Eugene Wyatt.
Laura-Jen-Grandson
Laura knit Jen's coat from Ember yarn, both pictured here with Lukas, son & grandson.
 
 
 
Jen
Jen belts it.
 
 
 
Back
Lovely color variation on a lovely knit 
 
"The design is based on The Einstein Coat in Book 1:  The Knit Stitch, by Sally Melville.  (available on Amazon) However, I modified the length, position of waist, shape of sleeves, shoulder width and collar shape per Jen’s wishes.  Essentially, a customization of the basic design...(the coat) accumulated many air miles as I commuted weekly to my project in Houston. 
 
The folks at Downtown Yarns on Ave. A had turned me on to the Denise knitting needles (flexible with interchangeable size so I could knit in my coach seat without jabbing anyone."_ Laura Heinrich. 
Ember
See how we dyed Ember in Natural Dye Workshop 7 and find the pattern reference on the Yarn Craft page.  Thanks Laura, thanks Jen.
Posted 10/14/2008 7:35am by Eugene Wyatt.

Immersion Dyeing:

Usually we dye 8 pounds of yarn in a large pot; but if you want to just dye a skein or two of yarn, you can scale your dyeing to stove top proportions quite easily using some high school algebra and still follow these basic instructions.

With the exception of indigo, this immersion dyeing procedure describes dyeing with all the natural dyes I use: cochineal, madder, logwood, cutch, fustic, etc. There are some exceptions to the procedure specific to individual dye extracts and those I detail by color and by extract under the Natural Colors tag of the blog.  Indigo requires a different procedure and that is described in Natural Dye Workshops 5, 6 & 7.

We dye outside no matter the weather.  There is something beautifully real about seeing a snowflake dissolve in a steaming pot of wine red cochineal on a gray February afternoon.

  • Into a 100 qt. stainless steel pot we add about 80 qt. of water (10 quarts per pound of yarn) and begin heating it over a propane burner.  These utensils and their sources are noted in Natural Dye Workshop 4.
  • In a smaller SS pot we stir & dissolve either liquid or powdered dye extracts in water being heated over another propane burner.
  • We add the dissolved extracts to the larger pot, when the water has become warm to the touch, and stir the dyebath.
  • In the bath we immerse 8 pounds of wet, mordanted yarn and gently move it around in the pot wetting it well with the dye liquor.
  • It will take about 30 minutes for the bath to reach the desired dyeing temperature of 200°F; during that time we gently stir the pot several times moving the solution up and down with a ladle rather than moving the yarn around to avoid tangling it as best we can.
Dominique ladles cochineal
  • At 200°F (evidenced by small bubbles coming up from the boiling pot bottom) we turn the heat down and keep the pot at that temperature for 30 minutes or so, occaisionally ladling the bath.
  • During the heating process we may pull the yarn from the bath to judge the color: is the yarn ready or does it need more time in the bath?
  • When it's ready we pull it and allow it to drip for 10 minutes before rinsing it in a washing machine. We agitate the yarn by hand but spin the rinse water from it with the machine.  Three rinses is usually sufficient.
  • We dry the yarn by hanging it on a line inside, out of the sun, and put fans on it to speed the drying. 

When it's dry, I photograph the yarn for the site and skein some of it for the stand. 

Posted 10/13/2008 9:00pm by Eugene Wyatt.
 Beijing Rouge
 
Beijing Rouge
 
Beijing Rouge was dyed at a strength of 12% WOF (weight of fiber) meaning that when we dye 1000g (1kg or 2.2lb) of yarn (20 50g skeins) we use 120g (12% of 1000g) of madder dye extract. 
 
What surprised me was the right-on-redness of this madder dye lot; the color didn't tend toward orange (acidic bath) nor toward fuchsia (basic bath).  The water in which we dyed that day was true for red.  Colors from natural dyes are influenced by the pH and mineral content of the farm's well water; acidity & hardness change with the seasons and with the amount of rainfall.  Rainy season colors are different from dry season colors, as are winter colors different from summer colors using the same dyes and concentrations.  Colors from natural dyes are unique and exciting, you never know exactly what color of yarn you'll get until you pull it from the dye pot.
 
The root of the madder plant, rubia tinctorum, is used for dyeing.  Standard procedures for immersion dyeing are used with madder.  Alum as a mordant gives you the best chance for a true red. 
 
When using the powdered madder extract, first make a paste using a rubber spatula and a small amount of water as this will help put the madder into solution when the rest of the water is added and heated.  Madder is sensitive to heat and can discolor: never boil when dissolving it and keep it below 180 F in the dye bath.
 
Yarn in Beijing Rouge is available from the Naturally Dyed department of the Yarn Store.
 
Posted 10/9/2008 8:16pm by Eugene Wyatt.

Osage over Heather

Kombu

Kombu is arrived at by dyeing Osage Orange over a gray Heather Yarn  which is made when the spinnery cards together undyed wool and dyed-in-the-wool black before spinning it.
 
Yarns to be dyed with Osage Oranges (including over dyes of Heather) must be first mordanted with Alum, then dyed according to the Immersion Dyeing procedure outlined in Natural Dye Workshop 10.  Note that Osage takes quickly; you may want to pull it from the bath after 10 minutes if you're looking for a lighter hue.  If it's too light reintroduce the yarn, pull it and look again in 5 minutes or so.  Osage dyes dark at 4% WOF, light at 2% WOF.
 
Trick of the Trade: don't throw a dyebath out until it's exhausted.  The Kombu pictured above was dyed in the bath left over from dyeing natural yarn with a dark Osage—using a bath twice (the 2nd color will be lighter than the first) saves and it quickly adds another hue to your color story.
 
Kombu is a seaweed harvested off Hokkaido and is used in Japanese & macrobiotic cuisine as an ingredient in soups & stocks.
 
Posted 10/3/2008 7:28pm by Eugene Wyatt.
Maillot
 
 Maillot
 
Weld (reseda luteola) is a plant native to Europe and has been used as a dyestuff since medieval times.  Vermeer is said to have glazed weld over an indigo blue to produce the once brilliant, but age darkened, greens of Girl with a Pearl Earring (ca. 1666).  
 
Dye Weld at 3% WOF for the dark hues (as in the yarn photo above), 1% WOF for light hues after having mordanted the yarn with Alum as described in Natural Dye Workshop 9.  Follow the Immersion Dyeing procedures outlined in the Natural Dye Workshop 10. 
 
From my newfound passion for bicycling comes the name for this bright yellow yarn, Maillot as in maillot jaune.  Lance Armstrong, the 7 time winner of the Tour de France, has worn the color well.  After 2 years in retirement, he will ride the Tour once again in 2009.  Je vous souhaite bonne chance, Lance. 
 
Yarn in Maillot is available from the Naturally Dyed Yarn department of the Yarn Store.
 
Posted 9/19/2008 8:40am by Eugene Wyatt.
Fustic, Light & Dark
Old Fustic, Light & Dark
 
Fall is here.  We’ve been busy dyeing and over-dyeing yarn this week.  We will have 20 new natural colors at the stand in Union Square this weekend, madders, osages, cochineals with combinations and indigo overdyes of them—a prism of hues. 
 
In the coming weeks I will upload photos of the new colors to the Yarn Store  and post future installments of the Natural Dye Workshop.
 
Posted 8/7/2008 8:59am by Eugene Wyatt.

Mordants: getting ready for color

With the exception of indigo, all the natural dyes I use are applied to the yarn by the immersion method and require a pre-treatment, a mordant, to prepare the yarn for the colorant.  Mordants insure that the dyes will better adhere to the yarn resulting in brighter colors that are fast.

The primary mordant I use is Alum (potassium aluminum sulfate) which is sometime combined with Cream of Tarter depending on the dye used and color desired.

Earthues is my source for mordants; more information on how mordants work is available on their website and in the pamphlet, written by Earthues founder Michele Wipplinger, Earthues Natural Dye Instruction Book.  I highly recommend having this pamphlet on hand as a reference when you dye.

The weight of mordant to be used is specified as a percentage of the weight of fiber (WOF) to be dyed.  I use 10% and weigh it out on a triple beam balance. 

The measured amount of powdered alum is dissolved with hot water in a 5 gal. stainless steel pot*.  The dissolved mordant is then added to water (3-4 gallons per pound of yarn to be dyed) in a larger 25 gal. stainless dye pot being heated over a flame.  The yarn is then added and periodically stirred as the temperature of the bath rises to just under boiling. 

The yarn is kept at this temperature for an hour, then permitted to cool.  The yarn is pulled from the mordant bath and quickly rinsed in a washing machine agitating it by hand; the rinse water is spun away by the machine. 

The wet yarn is now ready to dye.  It can be kept in a closed plastic bag for as long as a week before dyeing.

* Sources for scales and stainless pots are linked in Natural Dye Workshop 4: Dyes, utensils & resources.
 
Posted 7/15/2008 2:45pm by Eugene Wyatt.

Indigo Blue, Part 4: Overdyeing Primary Colors

The procedures for overdyeing primary colors are the same as those outlined in the previous syllabus for secondary colors.

Cochineal with indigo over

We began with a medium-dark cochineal* (red) and overdyed it with an indigo (blue) to produce a violet, a secondary color.
 
 
Fustic with indigo over
 
We see a full strength fustic (yellow) overdyed with indigo that gives us a teal green, a secondary color. 
 
In all indigo overdyes, of both primary and secondary colors, there is a question of intensity which can be mostly controlled by the strength of the natural dye in the dye pot, both for the substrate color and of the indigo that overdyes it.  Recall that the amount of time the yarn is dipped in the indigo bath and the number of times the it is dipped will also influence intensity. 
 
Indigo over cochineal, depending on the concentrations, can produce colors from periwinkle to mauve; while indigo over fustic (or osage orange*) can produce colors from lime green to dark teal.
 
There is also a less controlled aspect of natural dyeing, and that is variation; if you look closely at the overdyes above you will see color differences.  In some places the substrate color shows through and in some places it doesn't. Lighter concentrations of indigo (less time & fewer dips too) tend to show more color variation. 
 
We like variations in the yarn we dye with natural colors as it knits up in pleasantly unexpected patterns that maintain a color harmony opposed to the more garish colors of yarns hand painted with acid dyes.  But we like garish colors, and wild combinations of them, too; they have their place, but not in subtle world of natural dyes.
 
*see the Natural Colors page for explanations and sources of the natural dyes used here.
 
Posted 7/11/2008 10:08am by Eugene Wyatt.
Indigo Blue, Part 3: Overdyeing Secondary Colors

 
Ember
Ember 
 
Sunset   
Sunset  
 
To get the Ember we wanted for Laura and Jen we began with Sunset.  According to the latest color theory, there are three primary colors: red, yellow and blue; combining these primaries, each with each, produces secondary colors: green, orange and violet.  With this or any color theory there are as many caveats and exceptions as there are colors, but for our purposes, working in color reality, we can depend on the absolute fact that two colors combine to produce a third color.  Using indigo blue to overdye (combine with) red produces violet, and using it to overdye yellow produces green.  But combining all three primaries, red, yellow and blue, together at once  produces a gray, and this is what we must do to get the Ember that Laura and Jen want.  

Sunset is an orange hue that comes from combining the red of madder and the yellow of fustic.   When we overdye Sunset with the blue of indigo, we get the gray called Ember.  But we must be cautious when overdyeing because Ember consists of  visible variations of orange, blue and gray.  If we keep Sunset in the indigo bath for too long, or if the bath is too strong, the result will be a flat, monochromatic gray or dull blue and we will lose the varied colors that we're looking for. 
 
We approach Ember with a series of light dips in the indigo bath, layering one upon another and getting darker shades with each successive layer.  After each dip (waiting for the indigo to darken as it oxidises) we evaluate how far away we are from our target color and determine how long the next dip will be.  Time in the bath is measured in minutes, sometimes in seconds and usually in breaths.  This is where experience, skill, guessing, luck and acceptance combine as art.   
 
 
Dipping Sunset
 
Wet skeins of Sunset are lowered into the indigo bath. The initial dip will be from one to two minutes.
  
 
Sunset in Indigo Bath
 
Yarn in the bath is kept in constant motion. The temperature of the bath is 130 degrees Fahrenheit, or very warm to the touch.
 
 
Pulling a 1st Ember
 
A first dip of Ember is pulled from the bath to oxidise in the air.  Several more dips will follow.
 
Next: Overdyeing primary colors with indigo 

Posted 7/3/2008 2:00pm by Eugene Wyatt.

Indigo Blue, Part 2: Basic blues

Yes your heart may pound, but the good thing about indigo is the color is layered by subsequent dips, each layer gets darker and is built upon the previous dip.
 
Indigo Light
 
Light Indigo 
 
It's hard to go wrong with indigo if you're patient and looking for a straight blue.

 Indigo pot

  An indigo bath ready for yarn

Yarn coming from the spinnery has spinning oil on it.  The oil must be washed and rinsed off; the washed yarn will be put into the indigo bath when it is wet.  Washing is done in a machine by soaking the yarn (with no agitation) for 20 minutes in water containing a normal amount of laundry detergent.  The washing machine spins the yarn between the wash and three rinses. Our machine will hold 8 pounds of yarn at once.
 
D lowering natural
 
Lowering natural yarn into the bath
 
Eight 2 oz. skeins are tied together in a bundle.  We may dye 2 lbs. at once with each finger holding on to a stringed bundle.  The yarn is lowered, or dipped, into the bath; with a gloved hand, it is swirled to always keep it moving.
 
 D swirling natural
 
Swirling the yarn in the bath 
 
The yarn is in the bath for about a minute then it is pulled.  This first dip is to determine the strength of the bath by judging the intensity of the blue.
  
D pulling natural
 
Pulling the yarn 

The yarn comes out of the bath a teal green; when it contacts the air it oxidizes and turns blue before your eyes.  Notice how the color has changed between the top of the skein and its bottom as it is pulled up.  

We let the yarn drip back into the pot, then hang it on the overhead rack to oxidize.  If we want a darker blue, we will dip the yarn again, oxidize it...and over again...  The intensity of indigo blue is additive.

Dark Indigo

Dark Indigo 

When we have arrived at a shade of blue we like, we will let the yarn oxidize longer, then wash, rinse and air dry it.  Indigo is truly a forgiving color.

Next: Over dyeing with indigo, Laura's Ember

Posted 6/26/2008 10:40am by Eugene Wyatt.
Indigo Blue, Part 1

Laura wants 15 skeins of Ember, a color that begins as another color called Sunset which comes from mixing madder, fustic & logwood gray extracts.
                                       Ember
     Ember    

Jen, Laura’s daughter-in-law, liked Ember for its subtle color variation, she wanted a sweater-coat knit from it and Laura offered to knit the coat for her; but we had only two skeins of that color in the stand; it would have to be dyed.  To get Ember we must over-dye Sunset with indigo; fortunately at the farm we had 24 skeins ready to be over-dyed.

If there is a science to working with natural colors, then working with indigo is an art, if art is defined as surprise; this color requires the blessings of serendipity.  The final blue is often unforseen, but usually it is a pleasing hue.

To exactly match the color would be impossible, and to come acceptably close to it would not be easy either, but I decided to try.  15 skeins is a large order, Laura didn’t blink at the price, how could I balk over my doubt.
 
Source & History 
A variety of plants have provided natural indigo throughout history, but most indigo is obtained from those in the genus Indigofera, which are native to the tropics.  The primary commercial indigo species in Asia is Indigofera Tinctoria.

Indigo dye is obtained from  processing the plant's leaves. These are soaked in water and fermented in order to convert the Glycoside Indican naturally present in the plant to the blue dye Indigotin. The precipitate from the fermented leaf solution is mixed with a base, pressed into cakes, dried, and powdered.
Indigo cake
Natural indigo was the only source of the dye until July 1897. Within a short time, synthetic indigo almost completely superseded natural indigo; today nearly all indigo produced is synthetic.  In the United States, the primary use for indigo is as a dye for blue jeans.  After the Wikipedia entry on "Indigo"

My source for indigo extract is Earthues; it is sold as a powder.  When working with extracts & dyes wear a paper particulate mask over your nose and mouth,  latex gloves and eye protection as the situation requires.
 
Dyeing Procedure 
 
In a 1 qt. jar I mix 2 ounces (56 grams) of indigo with a small amount of water making a paste, then I fill the jar with 3 full cups of water and stir it well.  To the aqueous solution, in this order, I stir in 2 TBS of thiourea dioxide (also available from Earthues) and 2 TBS of lye to the solution in the jar. (Always add lye to aqueous solutions, and never the other way around, to prevent it from splashing back.)

Thiourea dioxide is a reagent that reduces the oxygen of the dye bath and lye raises the pH.  Both an absence of oxygen and a basic (non acidic) dye bath (with a pH of 9-10) are required for the indigo to fix to the wool yarn being dyed in the pot.  
 
The indigo/thiourea/lye solution is set aside in the shade for a half an hour to let the thiourea reduce the oxygen in the jar; it will turn from a blue to a dull yellow.  At this time I prepare the bath by heating water to 130 F in a stainless steel pot, using about 4 gallons of water for each pound of yarn to be dyed; then I add the indigo/thiourea/lye solution to the pot and stir gently.

Until now we have been scientific and specific, but art and experience are required to get the blues you want.  With a spoon, to determine how much oxygen remains in the solution, I check the color of the dye bath: to dye indigo well the solution must be a blue blue-green, not a blue (too much oxygen) and not a lime-green (too little oxygen).  Upon addition of the indigo/thiourea/lye solution to the bath its color will be blue at first. One must wait about 15 minutes for the thiourea to reduce the oxygen in the pot.  If the blue blue-green is not green enough then add another TBS of thiourea to the bath.  If it is too green, agitate the bath to introduce oxygen. 
 
I used a pH meter when I began dyeing indigo, but it broke; now I rely on the slipperiness of  my fingers after sticking them into the dye batch to tell me the pH.  Basic solutions are slippery; the more basic the slipperier they are. pH 10 feels more slippery than pH 8.  This knowledge is the experience, if not the art, of dyeing and your fingers can learn too.

When the bath is ready, judged by its color and its slipperiness, the yarn is immersed in the pot, and your heart pounds, “Did I do it right…bumpety, bumpety, bump…O the art…”
 
To be continued...
 
Posted 6/19/2008 4:44pm by Eugene Wyatt.

Dyes, utensils & resources

The Catskill Merino Natural Dye Syllabus describes how, using natural colors, we dye yarn on the farm.  The history of natural dyeing is fascinating and I will make reference to it occasionally, but our focus here is to show you how we dye yarn so you can begin dyeing it too.
 
 
Osage Heather
Osage Heather
This is a 2 oz. skein of heather merino yarn over dyed with Osage Orange.  This dye is available from Earthues, a supplier of natural dyes, and they also offer a booklet that I highly recommend called the Earthues Natural Dye Instruction Book by Michele Wipplinger, the founder of Earthues.
 
 
Dyestuffs

Pictured above on our dye table are a balance and dye extracts weighed out on coffee filters.
 
Triple Beam Balance

You will need an accurate method to weigh the dye extracts to 0.1 gram.  We use a triple beam balance like this one available from Scales-n-Tools  
 
You will need stainless steel pots. A good place to find them is a local used restaurant equipment dealer.  We got several good used 20 qt. ss pots locally at a reasonable price.
 
 
100 qt Pot           Burner
      
But we needed larger pots too, and those were hard to come by used; I found a 100 qt. ss pot  (20” in diameter & 20” high) online at Kitchen Fantasy.    To heat a 100 quart pot (weighing 208 lbs  when full + the weight of the pot) you need a sturdy propane burner and that I found online at Louisiana Lagniappe  designed to be used for big crawfish cookouts.
 
 
Dye Studio

The Catskill Merino dye studio is as big as all outdoors, and as colorful.  Here is a Kitchen Fantasy 100 qt. ss pot on a Louisiana Lagniappe 105,000 btu burner.  Note the garment rack (sans wheels) over the pot to hang the dyed yarn when it is pulled from the dye bath.

To dye one or two skeins on your stove top you won’t need equipment like this; but you should use non-reactive pots, either stainless steel or enamel and never use pots of iron or aluminum as these metals influence the colors.  You can get around buying a triple beam balance by using measuring spoon weight equivalents (charted by color and intensity) specified in the Earthues Natural Dye Instruction Book.
 
Posted 6/12/2008 2:13pm by Eugene Wyatt.
Sunset
Sunset
 
Color variation in naturally dyed yarn 
 
Sunset is a reddish ochre hue made from combining Madder, Fustic & a touch of Logwood Gray; you can find out more about these dye extracts on the Natural Colors page. 
 
Notice how the vivid color mutes along the strand of Sunset.  This variation is unique and is a discovered beauty of dyeing with natural colors; you're never sure what your going to get until you've gotten it. 
 
You can order this yarn from the Naturally Dyed Yarn department of the Yarn Store, or you can follow the online Natural Dye Workshop to learn how to dye this color yourself.
 
 
Posted 6/10/2008 9:02am by Eugene Wyatt.
White
What color is and what it isn't 
 
My Nikon D80 is in the shop until tomorrow—nothing serious—Photo Tech on 13th St. tells me its exposure sensors need cleaning.  I may not be able photograph the yarn that Dominique dyed to present in the Yarn Store as promised.  Also, thrush has flared up in the ewe flock, now the ewes and their lambs must be walked daily through a foot bath. The beginning of the promised Natural Dye Workshop may have to be postponed to next week.  
 
Sheep always come first on this farm. 
 
But for now, here is a little riff for you on what color is and what it isn’t.
October 20, 2006 - June 10, 2008
The interior of my house is white: white ceilings, white walls and white carpet, upstairs and down.  With white sheepskins, I draped the love seat, three wicker chairs and an ottoman in the living room.  I sleep under a comforter, filled with white wool covered with white flannel.  
 
I like white for what it isn’t.  Color has to do with place, place has to do with what is there; but white has to do with what is not there and what is not there has to do with desire.  
 
Color is felt more than it is seen.  According to Johan Wolfgang Von Goethe in his 1807 treatise on color, reddish-green is a color that can’t be seen; but what we can’t see, we can imagine.  Last week I dyed a color that Goethe would have been blind to, it was a crimson-lime hue that, it was the color of skin.  
 
In the Jean Luc Godard film, Une Femme est une Femme, the tanned skin of his actor, Anna Karina, glows as the camera follows her through the film’s white interiors.  According to Goethe, we can not see a brilliant brown in the way we can see a brilliant red, yet her skin is brilliant when seen against the white interior of desire.   
 
Color requires us to become its temporal accomplice.  When a lone color is seen (isolated in space), the red of an apple for example,  a color from the past or perhaps a color from the future, a color heretofore unknown to us, will come to mind.  Color can’t be spatially alone, or it becomes white.  So through us, the temporal joins and influences color; but white is different, it is unchanging, it is alone, it is beyond time.
 
White is messianic, always to come and never to arrive.  When Franz Kafka says, “You are reserved for a great Monday…but Sunday will  never end,” he speaks of white.  Something that has not yet begun will never end and wouldn't this be white too.  
 
To prefer one color is to hide another.  The colors we hide become secrets, which are always white, and they determine the strangers in our lives by determining our friends and lovers, those close enough to us to know our favorite color.
 
Posted 6/6/2008 9:01am by Eugene Wyatt.
The call to colors
Learn how to dye
 
The farm has been busy this Spring: shearing the sheep in March, then lambing the ewes in April and finally getting the flock to pasture in May.  Now we have time for other things.  Dominique dyed new colors that I will present & offer for-sale here next week; they will be available in the stand tomorrow. 
 
She dyed a very good Cochineal/Madder red—kudos in crimson—this is a hard color to get. The addition of Cochineal to the dye bath is a semi-modern (18th Century) and New World variation of Turkey Red.
"Turkey Red was the name given to a red dye which had been developed from the root of the madder plant. The knowledge that madder was an effective red dye was not new. The Greeks, Libyans and Romans all used it as did the Moors. After its use was lost the Dutch rediscovered its cultivation in 1494 and for the next three hundred years were the world’s largest exporters.
In 1747 Prince Charles Edward Stuart disguised himself as Betty Burke by wearing a block printed madder dress to escape from the English. From the middle of the eighteenth century chemists and industrialists from all over Europe had tried to find the industrial process that would give them a bright, fast, non fade red. Ultimately French chemists obtained the secrets from what is now Turkey and the name stuck."  From The Color Museum
That Dominique can dye well does not surprise me—she can do many things—but that she learned most of what she knows about natural dyeing here on the farm, does surprise me.  They say, "You don't know a subject until you can teach it."  Well if I do know something about natural dyes. I plan to find out what that something is by sharing it with you.
 
I will teach an online dye workshop, a syllabus of natural colors to be more accurate, which will be a dizzying spin round the color wheel that you can enter into anytime at any color and go in any direction.   Our curriculum will describe the step-by-step process (with plenty of photos) of dyeing yarn with natural colors in 100 qt. stainless kettles on propane burners as we do here on the farm, and in smaller pots on a stove top using utensils that you have in your kitchen. 
 
No secrets and no tuition: along with tricks-of-the-trade that I've picked up  dyeing 1000's of pounds of yarn, I will share with you where to buy dyestuffs & utensils, what  how-to books on dyeing I like, and when in-person workshops around the country are to be conducted by master dyers, and much more.  Also, either Dominique or I will be available anytime for questions about your color projects.
 
We will begin this week and continue every week thereafter as sheep blog entries; click the "Natural Dye Workshop" tag in "Blog Categories/Labels" to call the syllabi up in sequence.  After an introduction to utensils and mordants, we'll get into the reds: Turkey Red with Madder, Cochineal red with its tints from orange to fuchsia, and maybe the reds of Lac and Quebracho too, unless another color comes up first.