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colour in the pot

May 23, 2013

I’ve been hoarding 10 ounces of 22/2 tussah silk

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first it had to be wound into balls and then smaller sample skeins

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then weigh and mordant it with alum

several years ago a friend gave me a bag of saffron when she returned from a trip to Greece

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I envisioned a lovely shade of monk’s robes

does saffron lose it’s colour over time?

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disappointed is hardly the word

the colour is not much deeper than the original tussah, but the kitchen smelled lovely

one dip in the indigo vat gave it a light teal/turquoise tone (the camera has made it more blue)

now it is on to something different, hopefully with more success!

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meanwhile I finished a kumihimo cord, an eight bobbin braid (maru yattsu gumi), in three colours

my directions say much practice is required before a good braid can be achieved

this one is cotton, I hope to reach a level of proficiency when I can try it in silk

13 Comments leave one →
  1. May 24, 2013 4:20 pm

    i have an interesting article about dyeing with safflower which i can send you. you can get a lovely pink with them. i know you can buy the safflowers from ‘mountain rose herbs’, but i’m not sure where you can get seeds. the indigo looks lovely and the kumihimo is coming along; you’ll be ready for silk in no time!


    • May 24, 2013 5:32 pm

      Anastasia – I have dyed with safflower – a long time ago and I really wanted to grow some. Will do some research and hopefully have some seeds for next year. I can get the dried petals from Maiwa Handprints in Vancouver.


  2. May 24, 2013 9:17 am

    Interesting experiment! Most sources I’ve read consider real saffron as much too rare and expensive and also fugitive to be used as dye. I’d personally rather use real saffron in cooking. 😉

    Turmeric, jackfruit and gamboge are all listed as possible dyes for the “saffron” robes of the Buddhist monks. Plus I’ve seen spices labelled “American saffron” which was actually safflower petals. They can also be used for dyeing.


    • May 24, 2013 10:28 am

      Lousia – I have a feeling it wasn’t real saffron, worth a try. turmeric is on the list. I can’t seem to find seeds for safflower.


  3. May 24, 2013 3:20 am

    with saffron the usual question is: is it real saffron. You can get a lot of things sold as saffron and they all won’t dye. So it could be that it’s not saffron’s fault ;o)


    • May 24, 2013 8:08 am

      Ulrike – I think you are right, it was worth a try.
      Neki – it is not a colour I use often so a learning experience


  4. neki desu permalink
    May 24, 2013 1:22 am

    it does have a shelf life and the color is fugitive.


  5. Carolyn permalink
    May 23, 2013 6:29 pm

    Turmeric might give you the color you’re after. I’ve had good luck with the fresh root but I think the powdered kind would work just as well. It doesn’t require a mordant but I’m told that it will fade in sunlight which is why the monks re-dye their robes every year. I enjoy the blog, thanks!


    • May 23, 2013 10:53 pm

      Carolyn – thanks, I’ve used turmeric in the past but I wanted to try the saffron. Not sure I’m ready for a monks robe yet!


  6. Myra Dunn permalink
    May 23, 2013 5:55 pm

    I’ve been wanting to try kumihimo again, Jean. Any suggestions for a good reference translated into English? I don’t even have the loom thingy (Mari?) so will have to buy one.


    • May 23, 2013 6:58 pm

      I have an old book by Catherine Martin (British), she has since published a newer one but I think you can get lots of free patterns on the internet. My son routered a 3 inch hole in a wooden bar stool for me. I use ball bearings in old film canisters for weights. Maru dai is the round stool we used at Bryan’s. Have fun. 🙂


  7. May 23, 2013 4:29 pm

    I was reading in J.N. Liles dyeing book and he used 1 gram dried saffron (flower stigmas only) to 28 g of fiber, but he doesn’t say much else. Luckily, indigo makes it all better.


    • May 23, 2013 5:17 pm

      Kristin – I have Liles but haven’t opened it in a lon-g time. My go to reference is Dominique Cardon


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