My cavalier approach to natural dye documentation must drive some of you nuts. Any 8th grader knows from working on science projects that I go about things all wrong. Well, maybe not all wrong. But I certainly don’t make it easy for others to replicate my results. When was the last time you read “weight of fiber” here? Right.
This is going to sound awful, but I really don’t care if others can “replicate” my results. I do care, and care deeply, that others feel encouraged to explore uses of natural dye materials they can grow or gather where they live. That’s why I share these experiments in the first place. Chances are you won’t have access to the exact same materials. Or you won’t have the recommended weight of materials in relation to weight of fiber. Or your water chemistry will be different. Or any number of other variables will make your results unique. That’s why I write about the process, instead of the product.
So much for my big juicy rationalization for not following all the rules of the scientific method. In case you decide that’s important to you, though, here’s the first thing that came up when I Googled “science project documentation basics”. It outlines the scientific method as:
- Ask a Question
- Do Background Research
- Construct a Hypothesis
- Test Your Hypothesis by Doing an Experiment
- Analyze Your Data and Draw a Conclusion
- Communicate Your Results
And that’s pretty much what I do: I see what grows around me, look for information about it (at least make sure it’s not toxic), try to anticipate what results certain processes might have, test my theories, ponder, and write up a blog post that helps me both understand and communicate what I learned.
Here’s where I stray from the scientific method:
“It is important for your experiment to be a fair test. A “fair test” occurs when you change only one factor (variable) and keep all other conditions the same.”
Oops. As often as not, if I’m not impressed with results I pop that skein into whatever leftover dyebath I’ve not yet flung into the compost. And maybe another one after that. Or I grab my control skein to try a quick alternate experiment. Or…. you get the idea.
I find it very helpful to photograph the materials, the process, the results, and whatever chicken-scratch notes I’ve made along the way.
For the record, in the picture above there’s no heat under that dyepot in which wool yarn is soaking in an alkaline dyebath. After simmering frozen-then-thawed willow leaves in an alkaline dyebath (hence the blue color of the test strip), I strained out the solids and just soaked the yarn overnight. When I drained the yarn, I wished I had split it into two skeins. But I hadn’t. So I made a choice and moved on, rinsing the skein right away instead of letting it oxidize for a week or so first.
That’s what I’ll try next time. Unless I get distracted by another thought.