Violets are blue,
Will they make
My yarn a great hue???
Ever since the very first moment I read about natural dyeing, I've been waiting for bunches of nearly expired roses to go on sale at the grocery store. I'd bought such bouquets several times, because that's when they are affordable for me. Even if I get only a couple of days from them, I still enjoy roses immensely, perhaps because my mom has one of the most beautiful rose gardens in all of California.
Just One of Mom's Gorgeous Roses
I'd considered asking my mom to save up and freeze a bunch of rose petals for me, but she's been experiencing even worse back problems this year than I've ever had. I knew she would gather petals for me, even if it hurts her, if she knew what I wanted, so I didn't dare ask. Instead, I looked in the expired corner of the grocery store every time I went, hoping one day there would be another big batch as I've seen on occasion over the last 10 or 12 years.
One summer Friday night I got off work very late and was so tired, I got off the train at the wrong stop. It was so late, the train was running only on the half hour instead of every seven to ten minutes. I had to wait half an hour for the next train.
I had to stop at the grocery store for Lizard milk (I don't drink real milk, only almond, coconut or hazelnut milk) and orange juice. I checked the expired section of the grocery store, even though I could nearly fall asleep while standing.
Because it was so late, not very many people were in the aisles. One of the employees was putting out about a dozen batches of deep red past-prime roses!!! What few shoppers were present quickly began rifling through the collection, but I was able to grab five dozen roses!!! 60 stems of velvet petals with plenty of what I hoped would be gorgeous pigment!
Of course, by this time, I was no longer tired, and I spent the next hour at home de-petaling. I think I've found the perfect therapy for a stressful day at work. Just sit on the floor and inhale the aroma while you pluck eye-popping leathery velvet crimson petals!
I filled an entire reclaimed and upcycled pretzel jar with rose petals, then poured in about two cups of vinegar and two gallons of stale tap water. I put the lid on and went to bed dreaming of the gorgeous pink hue I might achieve this time around.
After two days of solar simmering, the dye bath looked pink and lovely.
After one week, the water had deepened to an almost-red hue.
The first hank of cotton (immersed after two weeks of solar simmering) after just one day in rose juice looked too good to be true!
I couldn't resist throwing in a skein of Knit Picks Bare after mordanting with alum and cream of tartar. This would be the first worsted weight wool I've ever attempted to dye.
And then I couldn't resist hanking a skein of sock yarn to go in the very same bath. I hoped there was enough pigment!
Naturally, I had to throw in some crochet thread, too. After all, it doesn't weigh much, and I like making pink snowflakes in October to honor those who have battled or are battling breast cancer. I was so shocked to see the thread came out the very same deep berry color, and it didn't wash out! I've been washing my dyed yarns in shampoo, followed by a conditioner rinse. The yarn is coming out silky smooth, and it smells fresh, too.
This thread was the most beautiful I've dyed yet, and I couldn't wait to use it. I didn't think to snap a photo of it. I had visions of sending something special to my mom, and sharing with her the story of how this thread came to be.
I impatiently and foolishly dried the rose thread in the dryer for only a few minutes with other weed- and sunflower-dyed yarn I'd after-dipped in copper or iron. I'd washed everything with shampoo and conditioner. I thought everything would be safe. I had no idea the metallic dip would still have so much power.
Imagine my heartbreak...
The first hank of cotton was such a deep, dark magenta, I thought I could brighten it up with a brief dip in chrome. It would make the yarn soft, too!
Once again, the spirited color evaporated, this time in less than a split second. Earth-shattering heartbreak all over again.
I should have expected purple and yellow (the color of chrome) to make brown. I learned that way back in grade school. This is an attractive shade of brown and the darkest natural hue I've achieved so far. It looks almost chocolatey. But this is NOT what I wanted.
Lesson learned. Always do a test dip first. Always.
I don't know if the wondrous colors evaporated because roses are a fugitive color, and the brown and gray are just a product of the glorious flower color washing out and the metallics binding, but these are not mistakes I plan to make again. I've purchased dye fixative from Dharma Trading for the rest of the rose yarn. (As well as some beet-dyed yarn I've been solar steeping, too...) I will patiently wait for my yarn to air dry from now on, too.
Once again, I learned just because the water still has color doesn't mean there's pigment, too. There wasn't enough pigment left for the wool. So it's dry now and waiting for the next natural thing I find that might impart a rose, pink or purple hue.
The color in the lone hank of cotton didn't hold up to the dye fixative. The shades of pink are now purple and gray.
I'm left dreaming of dyeing with rose petals again another day.