Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Black bean dyeing: the results! (Part 1)

As promised, I've got pics of two of the four skeins from the black bean dye pot. First, though, some background.

I learned about dyeing with the black bean soaking liquid on the Plants to Dye For group on Ravelry. Lots of pretty pictures of blue yarn.

Yep, blue. Now, I'm hardly an expert on natural dyeing, but even I knew that this was a big deal. Blue from something other than indigo or woad is something worth trying. And even better: I could get a few meals out of it.

Remember what I said about overkill? Remember that ginormous bowl of beans in one of yesterday's pics? Well, impatient Piggy I am, I went a little crazy with the beans.

I started with two pounds. Covered them with water, and put them in the fridge for two nights. But the resulting liquid didn't seem dark enough to my completely untrained eye. So I went out and bought another two-and-a-half pounds of beans, added them to the pot, and allowed them to soak for another two nights).

This resulted in a beautifully purple, opaque liquid. And one heckuva lot of beans. But that's another story.

So, I skimmed off the liquid into another pot, and threw in four skeins of yarn: two of Patons Kroy Socks (Muslin colourway), and two of the wool from the sale. I pre-mordanted them with alum (10% W.O.F.) and cream of tartar (5% W.O.F.). The Kroy was done earlier, in a pot that was rinsed, rather than washed, after a turmeric dyeing session, and had taken on an lemony-yellow shade over much of the yarn.

And then they steeped, at room temperature, for hours. And hours. And hours.

Here's the pot at 51 hours. (See those bubbles? I'm pretty sure I was starting to make black bean wine at that point. But I digress.):

51 hours

Can you guess which is which? The Kroy Socks is the much darker one. Pourquoi? Because it's superwash, that's why.

So I took the Kroy out at this point, and left the non-superwash in.

I rinsed the two skeins under the tap. Then a quick dip in some Eucalan. No real dye run. The resulting yarn was a strong blue-grey. I'm pretty sure it would have been more blue had it not taken on the yellow during mordanting.

I decided to try putting one of the skeins in a ammonia afterbath (an almost-full sink, with four capfuls of ammonia added) for a few minutes, to see if I could get a nice green. Three minutes later, I had something I liked.

Here's a closeup of the two skeins on the drying rack outside in the sunshine:

Black Bean Kroy x 2

On the left is the skein treated with ammonia; on the right is the untreated one. The photo is a bit deceptive; the yarn looks lighter than it was. Blame it on the bright sun and Piggy's less-than-stellar photography skills.

The one on the right didn't stay on the rack for long; I decided pretty quickly I preferred the greener shade, so I brought it back to the kitchen and tried to replicate the ammonia bath accurately. Amazingly, I managed it.

After drying, hours of frustrating untangling and skeining sans niddy noddy (I really need to get one of those!), it turned out like this:

Black Bean Kroy

Pretty much, anyway. It's a bit darker than the picture -- on my monitor, anyway.

How 'bout a close up?
Black Bean Kroy

I'm quite pleased. The unevenness of the yellow from the mordanting pot gives the finished product some subtle variegation between blue and green. I think it's quite pretty.

I might even have a plan for this. I'm not going to tell you, though, because I'm afraid of commitment like that.

Part 2 tomorrow! (It will be shorter, I promise!)


  1. Aren't you a clever Piggy?! The finished product looks nothing like I imagined it would -- and it's lovely :)

  2. OMG - very fab! Can't wait to see it worked into a project!

  3. I'm actually IMPRESSED! Probably because I don't pay any attention to the dyeing process, only the finished product. Congratulations!

  4. Gorgeous blue-green! I"m going to have to save these instructions.

  5. this is wonderful!! how do you set the dye?? or will it set? does vinegar work??