altivo: From a con badge (studious)
At least, sometimes. You can get results that seem to have nothing to do with what the recipe or book instructions tell you to expect.

We have a lot of elderberries this year, which is unusual. Normally it gets too dry during August and the berries mummify. Not this time. Yesterday I went out and gathered about a pound of them for a dyeing experiment. My books say that elderberries produce a lavender blue color when used with an alum mordant and simmered for a long time. So I mordanted about 2.5 ounces of Wensleydale yarn with alum and cream of tartar, cooked up my berries with vinegar and water, and tried dyeing the yarn.

Step 4: Dyeing the yarn

Above you see the dyepot filled with strained off elderberry solution and my yarn. I simmered this for about 90 minutes, then covered it and let it stand until completely cool. This morning I rinsed out the yarn and put it out to dry.

Step 6: Results

And there are the results. The color is pleasant enough, something like a warm rose tan. Not a hint of blue or purple, though. The berries may be affected by the fact that our soil is quite alkaline. Many blue-purple colored flowers and berries lose their blue in alkaline soil and intensify it in acid soil. Blueberries show similar effects, and ours are much more red in color though they taste the same as the true blue berries from elsewhere.
altivo: Clydesdale Pegasus (pegasus)
OK, today is the day. I had the walnuts from Susan, and they were soaking for almost 48 hours. Because she advised me that they are stinky when simmering and usually full of bugs, I decided to follow her example and cook up the dye pot outdoors. That was a good plan, too, as all kinds of wiggly things crawled and flew out of those when they started to heat up. The smell, while not as obnoxious as I'd feared, was not very pleasant. To me it resembled scorched milk, the smell you'd get if you spilled hot chocolate onto the top of the range or something. Gary said he couldn't smell anything, but that's not unusual.

After two hours of simmering, the water was black as ink. We scooped the walnuts out, and poured the rest of the mess through a cheesecloth and sieve. Then I returned it to the heat and when it began to simmer, added my two skeins of pre-wetted wool. Walnut is what we call a substantive dye, which is to say, it attaches itself to protein fibers without the need for a mordant or other assistant. So I just put clean yarn into the pot. I let it "cook" for about 20 minutes, and then rinsed it in gradually cooler water to avoid thermal shock to the fiber.

Here is the finished result (undyed skein of the same yarn shown for contrast):

Walnut-dyed Woolen

I'm quite pleased with the color, which will make a good contrast with the goldenrod yellow I dyed last week.

In honor of the end of the summer, I also baked a pie today. This combined Michigan peaches with Illinois blackberries, and is displayed here with one of my handwoven towels:

Salute to Summer's Ending

We're just about to sample it, but I'm pretty confident it will be good.
altivo: Running Clydesdale (running clyde)
Gloomy and humid, not much rain yet, though there have been a couple of thunder rumbles this evening.

Survived this morning's meeting, had lunch in Woodstock with Gary, went to his regular Wednesday group practice session. Attendance was down due to people out of town for various reasons, which sort of left me to play the role of lead instrumental soloist more than I'd expected. Fortunately, it worked much of the time.

In between that, confirmed that the emulated VAX setup I was reviving is now functional, with all three target compilers (C, Pascal, FORTRAN) installed and working. While I was at it, pulled down and installed the GNU Pascal compiler on the Linux host system as well for comparison. Last time I was messing with Pascal, that was very incomplete. Now it looks like a fairly complete and functional environment. Simple test programs I wrote on the VAX ran perfectly under the Linux gpc as well.

I can't say the same for the older p2c package. That's a translator that is supposed to convert Pascal source code to standard C, and it used to work, but this latest version is defective as far as I can tell. It tries to call a module called p2crc from a nonexistent directory /build/buildd... that must be a development setup of some sort because it certainly isn't standard Linux.

Oh, and black walnuts for dyeing are now secured. All I have to do is go pick them up. It turns out that Gilbert was actually tossing them into a bucket. Last night we had a little rain, so now they are soaking in the rainwater as well, which is fine as I can just include that water when brewing the dye pot.
altivo: My mare Contessa (nosy tess)
...but almost no mosquitoes. We seem to have crossed the critical length of time without significant rain so that the little buggers have all dried up. Of course, hot humid weather means flies and we have plenty of those. Fly spray on the horses works much better than mosquito repellent does, though.

Theoretically, tomorrow should start feeling like a vacation, since I'm not going to work. Car goes in for 36K service, though, and Gary wants me to go to Chicago with him to visit his mom, which I'll probably do.

I got inspired and made ratatouille crêpes for dinner. They turned out pretty well, except that the jalapeño I added was rather hotter than I expected. My ratatouille normally has some cayenne or a small hot pepper anyway, and I had the jalapeños on hand so I used one. It was so powerful that even after washing my hands twice with soap and water I could still feel the burn when I touched a finger to my lips. It diluted in the overall dish though and the result was quite acceptable.

Tess went out this morning and came in at noon, quite willingly as it was getting hot and stifling out there. She still fussed about being alone in the afternoon, though, and gave me a lecture every time I passed by, even if I stopped to pet and talk to her.

Apparently there are no black walnuts to be found around here this year. What few there may have been seem to have been taken by the squirrels already. I did find an empty shell this afternoon that was clearly the work of a squirrel. Most every natural dye source that is readily available now produces shades of yellow, and I need a contrast to yellow. Looks like either I take a chance on walnut bark, which is obtainable, or I go buy something like indigo. Need to decide pronto and get this done before the week ends.
altivo: Clydesdale Pegasus (pegasus)
Just one more, then ten off. I need the break, though it probably won't be restful what with hay loading and other stuff that needs to get done.

I wanted to dye the rest of that white wool with walnut hulls, but when I went to check our black walnut tree this afternoon I found no nuts. Either it produced none this year or else the squirrels are so desperate that they took them already. Unless I can find another source within the next couple of days, I'll have to choose some other dye source. Indigo would go well with the yellow, but I'd have to buy that. Same for cochineal or logwood. I'd rather not mix synthetic dye and natural.

Library directors for our consortium met yesterday afternoon, and I gather that my name came up several times. Evidently I was being recognized as the "leading" cataloger, which is probably a bit of a stretch. There are others as skilled and knowledgeable, but I'm perhaps less hesitant to make decisions. That's sort of a leadership skill, I guess. Anyway, it was apparently hinted that I do something like give classes or seminars to the others, which I feel is way out of line. The real problem is that not all the libraries value good cataloging equally. Those who tend to think that the catalog is "a waste of time" are still not going to contribute much to a consortial effort in that respect.

Absolutely clear sky at sunset. Too bad we aren't having aurora now. Though I guess the moon will be up shortly to spoil what dark sky we have. Mosquitoes are still out there, but much reduced in numbers from a week ago. This may be their last gasp for the season. I hope so.

Watching the hummingbirds at work this morning, I was even more convinced that at least one of them is a female Anna's rather than a ruby-throated. She is significantly larger than the rest, and less colorful, though very much a hummingbird and quite a strong flyer.

Dye photo

Aug. 25th, 2010 10:21 pm
altivo: (rocking horse)
Here's the promised photo of the dyed yarn. The skein on the left is "before" and shows the natural white of the Rambouillet wool. The two on the right were mordanted with alum and tartaric acid, then dyed with goldenrod flowers. The color doesn't wash out and is certainly bright.

Goldenrod Dyeing

I have three skeins of white wool remaining, and plan to dye them with black walnut hulls, which give a rich reddish brown color. Then I will use the two colors together in a project, probably a hat and scarf or hat and mittens.

Computer booksFor anyone more curious about the book shelf than the yarn (as even I might be in many cases) here is a picture showing most of the books (click for larger view.) The case is one of four that Gary made for me back when we lived in Chicago. He very nicely unhitched them from the walls in my study there, cut them down by one shelf height (our house had higher ceilings there, having been built in 1877 or so) and reinstalled them in my study here at the farm. This one holds mostly computer books on various architectures, languages, and operating systems. And yes, I've read most of these.

Going down to 49F tonight they say. First time below 50F in months if that actually happens. I expect fog in the morning, even though things have been fairly dry here for a week or more.
altivo: My mare Contessa (nosy tess)
I still need to put yarn into a mordant bath tonight and let it soak until tomorrow.

The strange tower like construction I noted along highway 23 last week has acquired another feature today: a tall, cylindrical pressure tank shrouded with what looks like stainless steel or possibly polished aluminum. I start to suspect that the structure is a fractional distillation plant for producing liquid nitrogen and/or oxygen. Why they would choose that location I have no idea, but I can't come up with any other explanation for the structure or the way in which they've cleared everything within an eighth of a mile or so. Glad I'm not their neighbor. Since the process requires very high pressure and lots of electricity to run the compression system, I'd have thought they would locate in a more industrial area. However, the air may be somewhat cleaner here (or at least easier to clean, as the contaminants are probably dust for the most part where an industrial region would have all sorts of pollutants in the air. The air must be compressed and chilled down to -200F, then warmed slowly. The nitrogen boils off first at about -196F, leaving mostly liquid oxygen and argon. The oxygen boils off at -183F, and the argon somewhat warmer than that. The residue is made up of trace amounts of various heavier constituents. Liquid nitrogen is marketable for industrial purposes and other uses, including the manufacture of fertilizer. The oxygen is more hazardous, as it not only freezes things on contact like the nitrogen, but sparks into flame and explodes readily. Argon and nitrogen are used inside various light bulbs and tubes. Dry ice or pressurized carbon dioxide can also be produced as by-products and are marketable commodities.

Mosquito population is dropping now, and dry weather is forecast for the next week or more, which will help. I seem to have acquired a lot more bites than I realized while gathering goldenrod flowers. I still need more. This morning I spotted one of our volunteer gardeners working in the wildflower plot and thought she was pulling goldenrod. I went out to ask her, but it turned out to be primrose once I got closer. She pointed out some areas with goldenrod in them, though, and told me to pull or cut as much as I want.


Aug. 22nd, 2010 09:23 pm
altivo: My mare Contessa (nosy tess)
A slower day, didn't get everything done but that's OK. Weather was decent, a bit warm and humid but not stifling. Mosquitoes still in evidence but they seem to be declining somewhat. (And it's about time.)

No hay to stack, but lots of laundry. I went out to gather Queen Anne's Lace and Goldenrod flowers to dye some wool, and that was the only time the mosquitoes really "bugged" me. The cut flowers will sit until tomorrow in the garage, so as to allow more of the ants and other insects that came with them to escape before I simmer them in a dye bath. I've thought for ten years that we had no goldenrod on our property, but it turns out there's a large stand of it back in the pastures. Gary has been less compulsive about mowing this year, and the plants made it to flowering size. Both goldenrod and Queen Anne's produce a nice clear yellow, with goldenrod tending a bit more toward orange.

I put Tess out in the morning so her hooves would get wet with dew, as the farrier recommends. Bugs still harrassed her, but at least her eyes weren't all runny when I brought her in. I think the flies do that to her, but she hates wearing a fly mask. I did have repellent on her face, but it's not 100% effective.

Ran a Fortran performance benchmark on both of the Alphas. The older one at home is a 433 MHz clock, while the one at work is 620 or thereabouts, so I did expect that machine to be faster. I did NOT, however, expect it to finish the task in 8 hours as opposed to 26 hours on the slower machine. Evidently the performance differences between the generation 5 and generation 6 CPU chips is a lot more than I thought, or else the memory bus speed is much higher in the newer machine. This program is almost all double precision math, though, without arrays or other storage processing and with almost no I/O.
altivo: Horsie cupcakes (cupcake)

Cochineal on wool yarn
Originally uploaded by Altivo
Set of six additional photos from last week's dyeing experiments. This one shows cochineal on wool yarn, with color variations resulting from use of four different mordants. The mordanting compounds were, from top to bottom: potassium aluminum sulfate (alum), potassium dichromate (chrome), copper sulfate (copper), and stannous chloride (tin).

For the rest of the images, click here and use the thumbnails on the right of the linked screen to scroll through the list.
altivo: (rocking horse)

Cochineal on wool yarn
Originally uploaded by Altivo
Set of six additional photos from last week's dyeing experiments. This one shows cochineal on wool yarn, with color variations resulting from use of four different mordants. The mordanting compounds were, from top to bottom: potassium aluminum sulfate (alum), potassium dichromate (chrome), copper sulfate (copper), and stannous chloride (tin).

For the rest of the images, click here and use the thumbnails on the right of the linked screen to scroll through the list.
altivo: Horsie cupcakes (cupcake)

Colorful Day's Work Colorful Day's Work
Some of the results of about 8 of us playing with wool, silk, and natural dyes on July 11, 2009. There are more colors, but they were hanging over the porch railing and outside the frame. The rippling pink and violet stuff in the foreground is a pile of silk "handkerchiefs" which are not actually woven, but merely stretched sheets of raw silk ready for dyeing and spinning. These were dyed with cochineal, using various mordants. The nearly black and charcoal wools were dyed with logwood, the red and burgundy samples next to the left with cochineal. The brassy colors at the far left of the table were dyed with fustic. The pale bluegreen yarn at the top left has not yet been dyed at all. That's the color left by using copper sulfate as a mordant. Photo courtesy of Barb Bundick.

altivo: Geekish ham radio pony (radio)

Colorful Day's Work Colorful Day's Work
Some of the results of about 8 of us playing with wool, silk, and natural dyes on July 11, 2009. There are more colors, but they were hanging over the porch railing and outside the frame. The rippling pink and violet stuff in the foreground is a pile of silk "handkerchiefs" which are not actually woven, but merely stretched sheets of raw silk ready for dyeing and spinning. These were dyed with cochineal, using various mordants. The nearly black and charcoal wools were dyed with logwood, the red and burgundy samples next to the left with cochineal. The brassy colors at the far left of the table were dyed with fustic. The pale bluegreen yarn at the top left has not yet been dyed at all. That's the color left by using copper sulfate as a mordant. Photo courtesy of Barb Bundick.

altivo: Geekish ham radio pony (radio)
No, not dying. Dyeing. With colors.

I spent a good chunk of the day cataloging Spanish language kids books. Never a fun exercise, that, but these were really yuck. Books spun off from Hannah Montana and then translated into Spanish. Talk about rotting kids brains twice, there it is. Then there were the High School Musical ones, no better. No wonder no one in the entire US had bothered to catalog this junk before.

Argos' appearance at the library has made it onto the website. Look quick if you want to see, after Wednesday it will disappear.

Now the dyeing. Tomorrow my spinning group is having a session on natural plant dyeing. I chose curly dock (Rumex crispus) as my color source since I happen to have a lot of it around. I also gathered daisy fleabane for a fellow member who is going to make dye from that. We have to chop up the plants and simmer them in distilled water for 45 min. or so, then let it cool and strain. That will be the dyestock, which we pour back into the distilled water bottle to take to the workshop tomorrow. The other thing I'm doing is preparing some small samples of white wool yarn by treating them with a mordant. The mordant is the chemical agent that helps the dyes bind to the fiber. The most common and least toxic of mordants used with wool is alum, but the workshop leader is going to provide samples prepared with that. I plan to do mine with copper sulfate, which produces what are often very different hues from the same dye. With daisy fleabane, for instance, alum yields yellow, but copper yields green. Copper sulfate, or copperas as the old dyers used to call it, is a poisonous substance that was once used in pesticides. It is also known as blue vitriol, and has to be handled with care. Fortunately I have dedicated enamel coated kettles to use for dyeing, so that's not a big problem. Other metal salts sometimes used as mordants include iron sulfate (non-toxic, but it dulls colors rather than brightening them,) and tin in the form of stannous chloride (brightens and intensifies color but it is both toxic and caustic, so no longer used much.) There was a chromium salt used at one time, but I don't even know where to get that one, it's so nasty. (Oh, yeah, I remember, it's potassium dichromate, and you can get it from chemical supply places but not from the pharmacy or grocer.) A few dyes require no mordant, or will work with common chemicals such as vinegar, ammonia, or washing soda.

I'm expecting a rusty yellow or a greenish beige from the curly dock, depending on the mordant. If it works, I'll have photos in a day or so.

Gary will be gone with Rob to a Civil War event all day tomorrow, so I am animal care, grocery shopping, AND get to attend my little class. It's going to be busy.


Jul. 6th, 2009 09:09 pm
altivo: Geekish ham radio pony (radio)
I've said enough before that you know I'm not fond of having internet computers for the public to use. Inevitably we are asked to "teach" people how to use a computer, and they know nothing. Worse, when they can't get something to work, it is always our fault as far as they are concerned. Our machines or software must be defective.

Today, two at once. One who "couldn't access his e-mail". That one turned out to be because he didn't know either his user name or password at Yahoo. Sorry, not our fault, no we can't do a thing about that. No, it isn't our machine that's causing this difficulty. Just because your machine at home "knows" your id and password, that doesn't mean that ours would know it.

The other was, against repeated advice that we give, purchasing tickets with his credit card on our public access workstation. This is not a secure place to use your credit card or access your financial records. Period. But they will insist on doing it. Once the transaction was completed, he couldn't print the receipt or the tickets. The job kept going to the printer, but would come up with "0" pages. He was sure it was our fault. It was because our stupid machines have Linux instead of Windows and a proper browser (by which he meant IE, duh.) So finally he was allowed to use a staff machine with Windows on it. The tickets still wouldn't print. Same symptoms. Turns out that the website is using Flash (!!!??) to handle the receipt and print operation. Jeez! How stupid can you get. Flash is insecure, unreliable, and bug ridden.

This time it wasn't an airline. He was buying tickets for an amusement park. Why he didn't just call their 800 number and buy them, I have no idea. Somehow the computer is "easier" even when it doesn't work and he doesn't know what he's doing. We often have similar problems with airlines though. People buy tickets online and want to print boarding passes, which in some cases just doesn't work. Even on a Windows machine, the things won't print. My only guess is that they assume a printer directly attached to the PC rather than a network device. Or maybe the airlines are using Flash too. How incredibly stupid can they get?

Came home, had dinner, hurried out to the garden to get in the last hour before sunset. Mosquitoes out in force. Did get 18 more tomato plants set out for late season crop if it doesn't freeze too early. I love tomatoes. If I can't get anything else from the garden, I want my tomatoes. Blueberries are starting to ripen, I see.

Looked around for suitable dye plants to use for a workshop on Saturday. Found large quantities of two that I didn't realize I had: curly dock, which is a noxious weed that produces zillions of seeds that no one seems to eat, so it spreads like mad; and fleabane daisy, which is pretty but can take over huge areas. Cut several ounces of each. According to my sources, the curly dock is in fact edible, seeds, leaves and even root. It's in the buckwheat family. A black dye was once made from the roots, but I'm after a deep yellow from the seed heads.
altivo: (rocking horse)

Poonies become yarn
Originally uploaded by Altivo
Back on July 22 I posted about dyeing cotton poonies yellow and blue. I'm now about half finished with the job of spinning them and plying the resulting thread into a lace weight yarn for knitting.

Here is a photo of the Bosworth book charkha I am using to spin the dyed poonies into thread. Two strands of the thread are then plied together in the opposite direction using a spinning wheel. Note poonies on the right, finished 2-ply yarn on the left. This yarn is coming out to about 2400 to 2800 yards per pound and I plan to knit a lacy scarf from it.
altivo: (rocking horse)

Dyed cotton poonies
Originally uploaded by Altivo
These rather bedraggled looking cotton poonies (punis) were dyed last night by dipping them in solutions of Procion MX fiber reactive dye with sodium carbonate and salt. They are still just slightly damp as the photo is taken, but hopefully will be dry enough to spin by tomorrow. Colors were selected to fit blue sky or water, sunlight, white sand, and green for seaweed or foliage. I plan to spin a fine yarn from them and then make lace, either knit or crocheted.

(See yesterday's entry for a description of the dyeing process.)


Jul. 21st, 2008 10:19 pm
altivo: (rocking horse)
No, not "ponies". (And get your mind out of the gutter, too.)

Poonies (or punis) are cotton prepared for spinning by carding it and then rolling it tightly into thin cigar shapes. I've been meaning for a while to experiment with dyeing some prior to spinning. I've seen some commercially dyed poonies and they look nice but the prices are just too high. So tonight I took a 100g bundle of Indian poonies and divided them into smaller groups, loosely tying each with pieces of yarn. Then I soaked them in a solution of warm water and sodium carbonate (washing soda.)

I used Procion MX fiber reactive dyes (bright yellow and navy blue) to prepare two small cups of stock solution (50 ml of warm water and about 3 ml of dye powder for each color.)

When the poonies were soaked through, I squeezed them out gently and set them aside while I prepared the first color bath by adding the yellow stock solution to 1.5l of warm water into which 10g of ordinary salt and 5g of the washing soda had been dissolved. The pale yellow stock solution blossomed into a brilliant orange yellow. I stood the poonies on end in this solution, sloshing them up and down gently then letting them rest for about 20 minutes with one end in the dye, and the other in the air, so that the dye only soaked up through about 2/3 of their length, leaving the top ends still natural colored.

When the yellow seemed intense enough, I rinsed them in running water until the water ran clear and squeezed them gently again.

Then I prepared the blue dye solution from the same proportions as the yellow, and repeated the process, but dipped the undyed ends into the blue dye. The end result after rinsing and washing out with mild detergent was poonies that varied in color from bright yellow at one end through green and then to sea blue with white flecks at the other end. This was more or less what I'd hoped for. Now if they dry out without being so matted that I can't spin them, I will be able to make cotton yarn in "bright beach" colors: yellow sun, green foliage, natural creamy sand and foam, and shades of blue for water and sky. I'll photograph the dyed poonies tomorrow when they've dried a bit. (Photo now available in next entry.)
altivo: (rocking horse)
So I was dyeing that silk necktie this morning, and the dye bath was still dark when I finished, indicating that I had used nowhere near all the dye. Rather than waste it all, I scrounged around looking for some wool yarn or something that I could use in that color (dark forest green.) Came up empty handed.

Then a light bulb went on in my horsie-head. A quick search through a drawer found me the white t-shirt that had a couple of mud stains on it. Very faint, coffee-colored blotches from being kissed by a horse with mud on her face. Several washings later, they are still visible. I grabbed a sack of those little rubber bands you use when braiding manes, and went to work. When the t-shirt was in adequate bondage, I soaked it in warm water, squeezed it out, and eased it into the dye. I was afraid the rubber bands weren't tight enough when I saw how well the dye was penetrating the fabric, but... it worked!

Shirt is now in the washer to get the last of the dye out. A genuine 60s throwback, and I don't remember when the last time was that I had a tie-dyed t-shirt. Probably at least 30 years ago. It looks good too. The design turned out pretty much as I planned it. ;p

(Oh, and the mud stains are now invisible. Unless maybe you put it in black light, but I don't have one of those any more.)

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