Denise: Here’s the second instalment of my dyeing blog …
Ragwort (Gaelic – Buaghallan)
Part 2, Let’s get dyeing!
Dye bucket – now that it’s cooled overnight, strain off the ragwort into a spare bucket freeing up the dye pot for use again. A pair of rubber gloves is handy when doing this as you can squeeze every last drop of liquid out of the dye. You should have a lovely rich yellowy brown colour by now.
Fleece – Choose only the best bits of fleece with no kemp or felted bits. Weigh just over 1lb of raw unwashed fleece (I aim for about 1 lb 4 oz as weight is lost when the lanolin is removed). A carrier bag is useful to contain the fleece whist weighing as it’s very unwieldy. Fill up the kitchen sink with lukewarm water and liquid detergent and immerse the fleece. Give it a good soak for about half an hour. Drain off the filthy water and re-fill sink with more water and detergent. This time keep adding a bit more warm water at a time to increase the temperature to hand hot. Agitate slightly. Rinse in warmish water and leave to drain. The wool needs to be relatively clean and wetted but only damp when entering the dye.
Dye pot – Pour a small quantity (about a pint) of the dye back into the dye pot and add mordant. I used 4 oz Alum plus 1 oz cream of tartar. Stir well until dissolved then add all the remaining dye into the pot. Add the wetted wool and stir well to ensure all parts are covered equally. Gradually bring to boiling point, stirring occasionally. Simmer for about 1 hr, again stirring now and then. Leave to cool. This can take several hrs or can even be left overnight. Tip out dye and coloured fleece and rinse in water of a similar temperature to that of the fleece. Several rinses are necessary to remove residual dye. Spin in washing machine and dry flat on towel to soak up any remaining colour.