On the traditional dye front – Woad and Madder

Been a bit quiet on my blog lately.  Sorry about that folks.  Seem to have a bit of time up my sleeve to write what I have been up too.

I am currently working on several commissioned projects.  Viking age leg wraps to be exact.  Unlike many other people I handspin all the wool for these items on a drop spindle.  Essentially a stick with a weight on the end.  It takes time but it still has a slightly different look about it to wheel spun wool.  (Spinning wheels apparently didnt appear till around the 11th century, see this link http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spinning_wheel).

I have been combing and spinning natural coloured Spelsau sheep fleeces,  as covered in my earlier articles.  The very exciting thing (for me at least) that I am working on right now is cold dyeing with a traditional woad fermentation vat and using a cold dyeing technique (no heat applied what so ever) for madder red on Icelandic wool.

The colours which are basically coming from a one dip and leave technique – (rather than a fuss about a heated stove and use modern chemicals like spectralite) are beautiful.  The cold dye madder technique has been the most fiddly so far as I am not the most patient girl when it comes to waiting for colour to happen.  I will most likely go into more detail about what it is I do when I have more samples and things written down.

Without further ado I would like to share the beautiful “cookie monster blue” I was able to produce with one single long dip (about a day) in the stinky woad vat.  I have been getting very gradual successively lighter blues with each long day dip I do (as expected).

This is the beautiful madder red I made after a 7 day presoaking of the Icelandic wool in alum, rinsing and placeing in a cold vat of ground madder which had leached into water with a small amount of calcium carbonate added to it to simulate a different ph and letting it soak in the madder dip for three days.  No heat at all involved in this process – which is based on the ” Nest Rubio” technique.  Nest wasnt to sure that our ancestors used all their firewood for heat dyeing cloth.  I tend to agree with her.  Its a much more relaxed way of dyeing wool and I havent had to worry about turning my maddar brown with overheating.


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