A recent very, very generous donation of some hundreds of cream-coloured cotton cones to the Guild raised the thought of dyeing in the mind of the Editor. As the cones are a fine one-ply, Guild members have the choice of plying as many strands as they want to crochet, knit or weave with. Your Editor decided to ply four strands to make up some hanks and will weave them double on her rigid heddle to see how the cloth comes out. You really need to keep an even tension when plying.
Cotton, compared to wool, is very good at absorbing moisture. There is no lanolin barrier. By using a tensioner on the loom, a warp can be laid down and woven with pleasing results. The use of pick-up sticks on the rigid heddle means being able to weave huck and waffle weaves, thus increasing the surface area of the cloth and increasing its absorbency.
Now, just plain cream cloth is okay for various purposes but having some colour stripes in cotton cloth sets off a weave pattern quite prettily. However, dyeing with standard cotton dyes can be quite daunting, not to mention a significant outlay for what might be an occasional weaving session with cotton.
Noodling around on the Kraftkolor for Procion MX dyes and their instructions (https://www.kraftkolour.net.au/assets/files/PROCION%20INSTRUCTIONS%202022%20WITH%20COLOUR%20CHART(3).pdf), your Editor came across Landscapes Cotton Dyes. Compared to the Procion MX dyes, the Landscapes cotton dyes were a simpler one-step dyeing method. The trade-off is a lesser amount of colours compared to the Procion dyes. Kraftkolour claims to “rely on their natural affinity for the fibre…have strong light fastness and moderate wash fastness…All colours are intermixable and non-toxic”. https://www.kraftkolour.net.au/assets/files/LANDSCAPES%20COTTON%20INSTRUCTIONS(2).pdf
To experiment, four pots of colour (Sun Yellow, Primary Red, Royal Blue* and Black) as a starter, plus a bottle of Kolourfix LS and a bag of non-iodised common salt from the supermarket made up my starter kit. The cost of freight was irritating but, hey, we live in Tasmania and perhaps the Guild can be persuaded to stock them in the Yarn Store. Delivery was quick via Australia Post and the items well-packed. (*Next time I’ll order Sky Blue instead of Royal Blue as my blue primary.)
The dyebath method was quite easy. The plied cotton hanks were weighed as 5 grammes or 1 heaped teaspoon dyes 50 grammes of fibre at full strength (twice as much when using the Black dye). Lesser amounts give paler shades.
As usual, wash to remove any sizing, make up the dyebath, measuring it out in litres. 25 grammes of salt is added per litre and dissolved. Dye powder is dissolved in boiling water and added to dyebath pot. Then add fibre, stir well to dye evenly and bring slowly to a gentle simmer. Unlike wool, stir regularly and simmer for 30-45 minutes. No need to worry about felting! Cool down in the dyebath pot and rinse well in warm water. Wash in hot soapy water and rinse again until the water runs clear.
Use Kolourfix LS 10-20ml per litre of the dyebath pot in a warm rinse bath for 15-20 minutes (40- 500C). If dye is still coming out, a little white vinegar in the final rinse does the trick (and for the Yellow and Red, it was needed). Having followed the instructions carefully, and then tested for colour fastness/bleeding on a small hank, the Editor will be weaving some towels in the future and shall report back. So far, the results are good.
Photo on the left shows the final dyed primaries and black. The small hank was washed and left to dry with the different coloured strands deliberately left to bleed into each other while damp, and they didn’t!
Written by Eva