Natural dye experiments have been on the back burner lately, but I am making a little progress with alkaline extractions. My current extractions are white pine bark, sumac leaves and Siberian iris leaves and of course willow bark.
I’ve been using a willow bark alkaline extraction since I read about the technique in Jenny Dean’s book A Heritage of Colour. I like to baste the edges of some of my ecoprint silk scarves with the extract when they come out of the dyepot.
To make an extract, I put chopped material in a quart jar, add water and soda ash, and shake it daily (or when I remember). After using the liquid, I top it off with water and a bit more soda ash (not scientific, but honest). The high pH drops over time.
These were all in the “mildly alkaline” range when I drained the liquid into tubs and plopped in wetted wool yarn. I left the yarn in about 24 hours, turning it over several times. No heat was applied. The next day, I squeezed out the extract and let the yarns dry.
This is what they looked dry but not rinsed or washed. There was a lot of wash-out in earlier experiments where I rinsed the yarns right away. I’m going to be patient and let three of these yarns cure for a week or so before rinsing and washing. The one in the lower right corner, though, is soaking out now.
The drained extract was weakly alkaline, so I used it in another experiment. I had two small skeins of meh merino, and wanted to see if I applied low heat slowly over time I could use the exhaust without damaging the wool. Those are soaking out now, too.