Over the past few weeks the house has been smelling a bit….stinky! When you are starting out with natural dyeing, red cabbage is one of the most straight forward. It’s easy to find and extracting the dye is super simple. (If you would like to read more about that see here!) It’s only real issue (aside from the smell when you boil it for an hour!) is that it isn’t light fast, so unfortunately the colours do fade when in the sun, which kind of sucks but if you are just looking to experiment like I was it’s not a big deal!
Red cabbage and turmeric are the first things I tried dyeing wool with, using the stove top method and simmering the mordanted wool in the dye bath. The result was a lovely lavender/grey colour. Its been about 7 weeks since then and the wool has been sat in my wool basket in a skein until 2 days ago when I wound it into a ball. I really didn’t think the colour had changed at all but once I unraveled the skein I could see that the wool that had been hidden on the inside was more purple and the outside a silvery grey. Still a pretty colour though!
The next attempt was the exact same method but once I had extracted the dye from the cabbage and let it cool I added 1tbsp of baking soda. Within a few seconds it turned a gorgeous blue/green colour and I added my wool and simmered for only 20mins and got the above results. This is by far my favourite colour I’ve got with natural dyeing so far. I have no idea either if the addition of the baking soda helps with how light fast it is but I guess we’ll see! I’ve got some plans of how to recreate the colour with other dye sources that are a bit more permanent so watch this space!
My third attempt for dyeing with red cabbage was to use a completely different method. I’d seen people solar dyeing online and wanted to give it a go. I also read that this method helps to keep the purple pigment in the dye much longer. I really liked the simplicity of this method; no simmering the wool in alum for an hour! I mixed the alum and cream of tartar in the bottom of a jar with a little boiling water, then added my wet scoured wool and chopped red cabbage, layering them both so the cabbage was evenly distributed in the jar. I filled the jar with plain tap water and gave it a good shake so the alum and cream of tartar wasn’t just sitting at the bottom. I left it sat in the window with plenty of sun light for 2 weeks and gave it a shake every now and again when I passed it. The sun should give enough heat to fix the dye to the wool and you generally know it’s working when you see condensation near the lid of the jar. Any glass container will work, I used a half litre mason jar for a 50g skein of yarn and couldn’t have fit any more in so if you want to dye a larger quantity you will need a bigger vessel! As always, when it came to rinsing it it was a bit stinky, but the colour was a lovely violet. I always hope for more pinky tones as the dye is almost fuchsia but so far no luck. Maybe if I add vinegar?! Ah well, it’s still a nice colour!
So there is my adventure in red cabbage dye! Today I got some other ingredients for some new colours so as soon as the bare wool I ordered arrives I can get experimenting!