Saturday, July 25, 2015

Dyeing With Woad

Back in the spring, I got some woad seeds and I thought, "Hey, why not?" I planted them, watered them, and created a little dye garden raised bed for them. They grew and thrived and now it was time to try them out.
Back in the spring, I also ordered a few silk scarves, in anticipation of dyeing them with woad and goldenrod. The first step was to prepare the scarves. I wanted to experiment with various shibori techniques, and luckily, the internet is full of DIY. The scarf in the picture below I planned on dyeing in graduating tones from light to dark, with a little design on the dark end. I traced some circles onto the scarf and then basted a stitch around each circle.
 Next I pulled all the stitches tight and that was that! I experimented with a variety of other techniques on my big scarf and then I soaked them overnight in water to prepare them for dyeing in the morning.
For most of my information on dyeing with woad, I followed the instructions on this lovely blog:
Next, I headed into the garden to cut my lush woad leaves. I need 4 times the weight of the fabric I was dyeing in leaves. I was left with lots leftover, so I think I will be dyeing again in the future!

 Inside, I heated roughly 5 litres of water to 90c and prepared my leaves by tearing them up, rinsing them, and draining them.
 Next, I shut off the heat to the water, dumped in the leaves and covered it for ten minutes. When the ten minutes were up, I placed the hot pot directly into a sink full of ice water and stirred to cool the pot down to 50c in about 5 min.
 Then I poured the liquid into a bucket, straining out the leaves with a colander. I used gloves and squished out all the liquid I could from the leaves and then I poured the liquid in the bucket back into the pot.
 The dye has to be alkaline, so I dissolved a heaping teaspoon of soda ash into a small amount of hot water and stirred it into the pot.
 With an electric whisk, I stirred the pot for 10 minutes. Pretty green and then blue foam formed on top.
 When the 10 minutes were up, I gently stirred in some thiourea dioxide, which de-oxygenates the water. The dye bath now has to be kept at 50c for at least the next half hour, until it becomes a translucent greeny colour.
 It is now ready to use! I took my scarves (and a t-shirt that I added later) and rinsed them under the hottest tap water so that they wouldn't cool down the dye bath. I then submerged them into the dye for about 10 minutes. For the scarf that I wanted to dye in varying shades, I put the end that I wanted darkest in first, and gradually added more of the scarf every 5 minutes or so. I've actually read that it is better to do shorter dips, pull the fabric out to oxygenate, and then dip again, etc for a darker colour.
 While the fabric looks yellowy-white inside the dye bath, the moment you pull it out and introduce it to oxygen, it magically turns blue.

 This is what my t-shirt looked like just after I pulled it out.

 Later on the clothesline, you can see that the blue has darkened a lot more. I rinsed my fabrics under tap water right after dyeing them, but I've also read that you should leave them for 24 hours.

 When they were dry, it was time to take out all my stitching and elastics to reveal the patterns underneath.
 Tomorrow I will wash them and give them a good iron to get all the creases out from the shibori process.
 The design on my t-shirt came from putting marbles under the fabric and holding them in place with elastics.

I was pretty pleased that it actually turned out and it is definitely something I will try again! I wonder if I can get darker colours? Oooh, and next up will by dyeing with goldenrod.


  1. Woad dyeing is like magic! Love your work!
    Sister Dyer

    1. It is like magic! I am looking forward to trying it some more next summer. Along with all my lichen and mushroom dyes as well!


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