english girl at home

A Sewing & Knitting Blog, Made in Birmingham, England


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Tilly & the Buttons Indigo

Tilly & the Buttons Indigo Dress

Pattern: Indigo Dress by Tilly and the Buttons

Sewing time taken (excluding cutting out): 5 hours

Fabric: Gifted by Kate at The Sewing Weekender 2017

Tilly & the Buttons Indigo Dress

After a busy week and a rubbish election result, I decided to treat myself to a weekend at home. Apart from a couple of excursions out for sustenance – and to take these photos – I’ve stayed in the house, watched films, and sewn. It’s meant being able to finish a Yates coat for myself and getting back to the blog after a couple of weeks absence.

Tilly & the Buttons Indigo Dress

It was a bit chilly taking these photos in the local park, but I wanted to share my Tilly and the Buttons Indigo Dress – and the hairband I made to match it. I’ve been making good progress through both my unfinished-object pile, and my fabric stash, this year. This fabric was a piece which Kate (of The Fold Line) gifted to me at The Sewing Weekender in 2017, so it was really satisfying to sew with it and to be able to start wearing it at last.

Tilly & the Buttons Indigo Dress

My Indigo is graded between sizes 3 and 4, I made the dress length version and included all of the ruffles (although they aren’t easy to see in the pictures due to the business of the fabric). It’s such an easy and comfortable dress and I’m sure it will get lots of wear once the weather warms up again. I have to credit Joy, Amy & Marie‘s version of the Indigo in particular for tempting me to make my own.

Tilly & the Buttons Indigo Dress Tilly & the Buttons Indigo Dress

I wear headbands regularly, and decided to have a go at making one to match this dress using my fabric scraps. For the base of my headband I ordered wide plastic headband bases from Petershams Millinery Supplies. To cover the band I cut a rectangular strip of fabric, sewed it up as a tube and secured it around the band with a few stitches. I then made two more rectangular tubes, and attached them on top of the band to form a bow. It’s a really cheap and easy way to make a matching accessory and uses very little fabric. I’ll definitely be making more.

Tilly & the Buttons Indigo Dress

Now that my Yates coat is finished my next (sewing) priority is finishing a Carlton Coat for Phil which I started last year, and a dress for me to wear on Christmas Day which I cut out two years ago. If I can get those projects completed I will be starting 2020 with a very healthy (i.e. small) unfinished-objects basket, and loads of plans for working through more of my fabric stash in the new year. But first I’m going to go back to a weekend of films and relaxing on the sofa beside the Christmas tree.

Tilly & the Buttons Indigo Dress Tilly & the Buttons Indigo Dress


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Indigo Dyeing

Natural Dyeing with Indigo

I recently got the chance to spend a Saturday in my garden dyeing with indigo. A mixture of fibres went into my indigo dye vat, including:

A lingerie kit purchased from Merckwaerdigh. I purchased it with the intention of dyeing it, so selected a nude and copper kit, which was the lightest coloured kit in the shop at the time.

Natural Dyeing with Indigo

Three pieces of fabric. A small square of Ikea unbleached cotton (back), Paul Smith cotton shirting purchased during the Sewing for Pleasure show at the NEC back in March (right), and organic silk from Majestic Textiles (left).

Natural Dyeing with Indigo

I also added a small amount of yarn to the pot, including my first attempt at hand spun yarn (left), 100% wool aran (centre), and cotton yarn (right). Indigo is a substantive dye, meaning that fibres don’t need to be mordanted in advance of dyeing (woo hoo!) so all I did to prepare these fabics and yarns was wash them as I normally would (i.e. cottons in the washing machine, silk and yarn by hand), and then leave them soaking in clean water before adding them to the dye pot.

Natural Dyeing with Indigo

I purchased the natural indigo I used from Fabric Treasury. I bought it in ‘cake’ form, so it arrived as a solid block inside the tub. In order to dye with indigo (create an indigo vat), oxygen needs to be removed from the vat before fibres are added using a reducing agent. There are multiple alternative methods of preparing an indigo vat, but I chose to use the method described by Linda Rudkin in Natural Dyes which uses washing soda and a reducing agent such as colour run remover. I purchased both the washing soda and colour run removed from Wilko.

Natural Dyeing with Indigo

Here is the indigo I chipped off the cake for the dye pot. Only 10g (two teaspoons) is required for up to 400g of fibres, so it goes a long way. I am actually being good and wearing (blue) rubber gloves in the photo below, although I have a bad habit of taking them off. I did end up with blue fingers by the end of the day.

Natural Dyeing with Indigo

Natural indigo has a strong smell, so I’d recommend dyeing outside if possible. I purchased a cheap one-plate hob to allow me to do this. I was careful to keep an eye on it the whole time it was turned on, in case any curious neighbourhood cats got too close.

Natural Dyeing with Indigo

To dye 400 grams of fibre the process is:

♥ Thoroughly dissolve 50g washing soda in 250ml of boiling water (this should be in a separate bowl, not your main pan).

♥ Mix 10g (two teaspoons) of indigo with 30ml of warm water to create a paste, and then add to the washing soda solution, stirring until dissolved.

♥ Fill your dye pan with 4 litres of water and heat to 50ºC (it is important the temperature does not exceed 60ºC), then gently add the indigo solution and carefully stir in.

♥ I removed my pan from the heat at this point, wrapping it in a towel. Then I sprinkled 25g (or one packet) of colour run remover over the surface of the pan, covered it and left it to stand for 60 minutes.

♥ After 60 minutes, I added my pre-wetted fibres to the pan. To avoid introducing oxygen into the pan, I first squeezed the fibres to remove excess water and lowered them in slowly. Fibres should be fully immersed below the surface, so I weighted those that refused to stay down!

♥ After a few minutes I removed my fibres from the pan with a slotted spoon. When removing fibres you want to avoid drips as much as possible to avoid adding oxygen.

Natural Dyeing with Indigo

While in the pan the fibres appear green, and turn blue as they are removed and exposed to oxygen. Fibres can be returned to the pan if you aren’t happy with the initial colour achieved.

Natural Dyeing with Indigo

Natural Dyeing with Indigo

Natural Dyeing with Indigo

Natural Dyeing with Indigo

Once removed from the pan, I rinsed the fibres and hung them on the line to dry, before giving them a full wash (in the machine for the cottons, and by hand for the silk and yarn).

As you can see in the pictures below, I achieved a mottled effect on my fabrics as a result of adding them to the pan scrunched up, and placing large amounts of fibre in the pan. I like the mottled effect, but a more consistent colour could be achieved by ensuring that all areas of the fabric are exposed to the dye, or returning the fabrics to the pan multiple times.

Natural Dyeing with Indigo

Natural Dyeing with Indigo

Natural Dyeing with Indigo

Natural Dyeing with Indigo

Natural Dyeing with Indigo

Natural Dyeing with Indigo

I really love the finished colour of the lace, the nude sections dyed beautifully. The copper sections didn’t take the colour at all, but I think they look great with the blue.

Natural Dyeing with Indigo

Unbleached cotton, before and after.

Natural Dyeing with Indigo

Organic silk, before and after.

Natural Dyeing with Indigo

If you’re thinking about trying natural dyeing I’d recommend a substantive dye such as indigo, since removing the need to mordant fibres makes the dyeing process much quicker. Also, the additional ingredients required (washing soda and colour run remover) are easy and cheap to obtain.Natural Dyeing with Indigo

Natural Dyeing with Indigo


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A Naturally Dyed Wardrobe: Dyer’s Picnic

Naturally Dyed Yarn

Last month, I became a member of my local guild of the Association of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers. The guild meet once a month, with the June meeting dedicated to a dyeing day at the home of Sarah, one of the guild members.

During the day we dyed yarn and fleece with both natural and acid dyes. This post contains the results of dyeing with nine different natural dyes, I’ll post separately about acid dyeing.

Dyer's Picnic, Birmingham & District Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers

Dyer's Picnic, Birmingham & District Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers

All of the protein (animal-based) fibres I took to the dyeing day were pre-mordanted a few days in advance, with alum and cream of tartar (I’ll post the recipe on the blog soon). I also took along some skeins of cotton yarn and British aran wool (not mordanted in advance) to use with the substantive dyes. Unfortunately, all of the cotton yarn I dyed faded substantially once washed. Given that the dyes were substantive (e.g. indigo) I was surprised at the extent the colour did fade, so wonder if it was to do with how the yarn had been treated during production? I did dye a couple of squares of unbleached cotton fabric (also not mordanted in advance) and they retained their colour much more successfully, which suggests it is related to the treatment of the yarn.

The exact yarns I used were (from left to right below):

♥ 100% cotton (Rowan handknit cotton) (unmordanted)

♥ 75% merino / 20% silk / 5% cashmere DK (Sublime)

♥ 100% wool DK (TOFT Alpaca, in Oatmeal)

♥ 100% merino wool chunky (Rowan Big Wool)

♥ 100% wool aran (Jarol) (unmordanted) not pictured

I got especially excellent results with the chunky merino wool, so would definitely recommend that for future dye projects.

Yarn for Dyeing

In addition to lots of dyeing, everyone that attended the dyeing day brought along something for a shared buffet lunch, so there was endless food, tea and coffee to sustain us.

The dyeing itself took place in Sarah’s garden on three separate camping stoves, and in an assortment of metal bowls which included pet bowls.

Dyer's Picnic, Birmingham & District Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers

Dyer's Picnic, Birmingham & District Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers

There were also some nice things to buy. I came home with a large pile of vintage knitting patterns and magazines, plus a small skien of yarn (below) hand dyed by Sarah Cage, whose home we were at for the dyeing day.

Hand dyed yarn by Sarah Cage

The nine natural dyes we tried are listed below, with photos of the colours I obtained.

Dyer’s Coreopsis 

Coreopsis typically produces a yellow dye, but we achieved a lovely yellow-brown.

With my yarns, the colour leaned towards yellow in the case of my chunky merino, and a dark brown with my merino, silk, and cashmere blend.

Dyer's Picnic, Birmingham & District Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers

Dyer's Picnic, Birmingham & District Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers

Yarn Naturally Dyed with Coreopsis

Yarn Naturally Dyed with Coreopsis

Yarn Naturally Dyed with Coreopsis

Yarn Naturally Dyed with Coreopsis

Yarn Naturally Dyed with Coreopsis

Walnut

Walnut is a substantive dye and produced a pale brown on my yarns. My aran wool (unmordanted) held it’s colour, but the cotton yarn faded once washed. I added a square of unbleached cotton fabric late, just before the pot was removed from the heat, so it didn’t get chance to take on much dye.

Dyer's Picnic, Birmingham & District Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers

Dyer's Picnic, Birmingham & District Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers

Yarn Naturally Dyed with Walnut

Yarn Naturally Dyed with Walnut

Brazilwood

We achieved a lovely range of pinks using Brazilwood, and paler pinks with Woodruff.

Dyer's Picnic, Birmingham & District Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers

Dyer's Picnic, Birmingham & District Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers

Yarn Naturally Dyed with Brazilwood

Yarn Naturally Dyed with Brazilwood

Woodruff

Woodruff (the roots are the section used for dye) was one of the plants we used for dyeing which was grown in Sarah’s garden, where the dyeing day was held. The plant was growing right alongside where we were stood.

Dyer's Picnic, Birmingham & District Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers

Dyer's Picnic, Birmingham & District Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers

Yarn Naturally Dyed with Woodruff

Privet

I was really impressed with the bright yellows we achieved with privet. The privet we used has just been trimmed off a hedge in Sarah’s garden, so we put the offcuts to good use.

Dyer's Picnic, Birmingham & District Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers

Yarn Naturally Dyed with Privet

Dyer's Picnic, Birmingham & District Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers

Yarn Naturally Dyed with Privet

Feverfew

We achieved a paler yellow with fresh feverfew.

Dyer's Picnic, Birmingham & District Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers

Yarn Naturally Dyed with Feverfew

Indigo

We achieved a pale blue using indigo extract, due to the volume of extract used and/or number of projects in the pot. My aran yarn (unmordanted) held it’s colour, unlike the cotton. The two aran yarns pictured below achieved slightly different shades of blue, as one spent slightly longer in the dye pot at a higher temperature.

Dyer's Picnic, Birmingham & District Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers

Yarn Naturally Dyed with Indigo

Yarn Naturally Dyed with Indigo

Lichen

Lichen produced a pale brown with my aran yarn (unmordanted), although the colour faded with my cotton yarn. There are ethical issues around using lichen for dyeing as they grow very slowly and may be protected species, so shouldn’t be foraged. However, the dryed lichen we were using had been in the possession of members of the guild for many years, and passed on to Sarah.

Dyer's Picnic, Birmingham & District Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers

Yarn Naturally Dyed with Lichen

Logwood

Perhaps my very favourite result was achieved with Logwood, which produced a range of purples with my wools and cotton. I was given the remaining logwood to bring home, so need to decide what I want to dye with it.

Dyer's Picnic, Birmingham & District Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers

Dyer's Picnic, Birmingham & District Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers

Yarn Naturally Dyed with Logwood

Yarn Naturally Dyed with Logwood

After getting home from the dyeing day, and before photographing my yarns, I left them overnight to fully dry. The next morning I rinsed each yarn in cool water to remove any excess dye, and then washed them in warm water and wool soak.

Naturally Dyed Yarn

The dyeing day was a great opportunity to try a range of natural dyes, in good company. If you’re interested in natural dyeing, spinning and/or weaving I’d recommend the association as a good way to learn from others and at very little cost (after the membership fee, it’s £2 each session to cover unlimited tea and cake). There are guilds across the UK, and I’m sure there are similar organisations worldwide.

My collection of small dyed yarn oddments is growing – I’m thinking a weaving, but it’s still in the plotting stage at the moment.

The photos below show the yarns drying in my garden after being washed, along with my acid dyed yarn which I’ll post about soon.

Naturally Dyed Yarn

Naturally Dyed Yarn