Tag Archives: fibre

Beet Juice Dye

When boiling beets for canning or pickling about 3/4 of the beets are covered with water and boiled until they are tender.  Yesterday it required over an hour of boiling.  This produces a rich red juice.  Draining this from the stock pot we were able to bottles 6 wine bottles of scalding hot juice for future use in fibre dyeing.  Old wine bottles work well – they are free, resilient to temperature, and are easily sealed and stored.  We recycle old corks for this and use a mechanical corker.

Fibre Burn Test

Today I sorted threads and yarns…bins of them.  I got rid of all the knitting yarns.  For the ones that were left the burn test assisted me in determining some of the identities that I, as a novice, could not tell by sight…

I acquired all of this thread through my loom purchases.  I have a great amount of this yarn.  It is a two-threaded wool…each of which is two-coloured.  It may have mohair, but will need someone more experienced to show me how…


Stock Tanks With Which To Wash Wool

Today it is cold…-26 with windchill; tonight it will drop below -40 with windchill.

However, none of this is any reason to stop preparing to wash wool.  In fact, the sooner the better.  Temperatures will soon start to moderate.  And when items are in stock you had better go pick them up or they may not be there – nor at the same price – tomorrow as remotely as we live.  This morning I went to town to pick up two galvanized steel stock tanks…

103 gallon – 2′ x 2′ x 4′, 169 gallon – 2′ x 2′ x 6′

I had thought to buy two 103 gallon tanks.  However, when I stood there I realized how much more wool could be held in the larger of the two.  So that’s what I bought.  The smaller of them can be used either indoors, or as a pre-heated tank using a propane or electric heater to speed up the next cycle of either the washing or rinsing of the wool.  The largest of tanks – 294 gallons (8′ long) – just seemed too large to be handy when it comes to keeping a supply of water at a constant temperature from end-to-end over the course of a half hour, or even to heat water to 160F beforehand.  There are limits to practicality when it comes to working on an individualized scale.

Each tank is predrilled with a 1 1/4″ hole and drain plug…


I also bought a faucet and fittings for each tank at our local plumbing store…galvanized to match the tank and metal so that if the propane torch were to accidentally touch them they would not melt, like the plastic ones would which came with the tanks…


And I cut rubber gaskets from old inner tubes which I will mount on the tanks’ interiors…


Skirting Rack

Yesterday the wool processor with whom I spoke stated that they used a 4″ x 4″ metal wire frame upon which they skirted their fleece.  He said that others used a 2″ x 2″ frame, but that those fleeces were not as good as theirs.  This morning I remembered a 2″ x2″ frame that had been given us many years ago and was in storage.  This will work perfectly set up on saw horses.  It measures 4′ x 4’…


Haskap Dye Loom Fibre

When lovely woman tilts her saucer,
And finds too late that tea will stain,
Whatever made the Lady crosser,
What art can make all white again;
The only art the stain to cover,
To hide the spot from every eye;
And wear an unsoiled dress above her,
The proper colour is to DYE.

1841, Swartz


Coloring is one of the most delightful arts, also a most responsible branch of manufacture; and a good dyer makes a manufacturer wealthy, happy, and renowned; while a poor one brings ruin, bankruptcy, and misery; and not considering the fineness of the cloth or the faultless weaver, the color sells the goods.

1869, Haserick


No matter the perspective from which dyeing is discussed, in the end it all boils down to one, singular, powerful kernel…beauty.  Humans can’t be blamed for their love of colour; to love colour seems to be in our genetic make-up.

In 1856 William Henry Perkin accidentally discovered a lavender dye synthesized from a coal-tar derivative and the age of synthetic dyes was born.  Synthetic dyes are standardized and not dependent upon the variances of seasons, climates, growing conditions, or individual plants.  Looking at the colour of the clothing that you, the reader, is wearing, we take all of this for granted each day as we decide what colours to choose; it wasn’t always that way.  But it seems now that the circle has come fully ‘round again, and natural dyes are making a come-back as their very uncertainty and the uniqueness of each batch allows for variations that are personal and unprecedented.  And not only that.  But the individualism of dyers and their locales are again becoming appreciated regionally.  That rather than the unconscious dependence upon the ecological, social, and economic destructiveness of global corporate manufacturing, transportation, and marketing systems, real people can organize to provide grounded local goods.

I never thought that my own desire to live a sustainable, grounded, humble, healthy, and simple life would lead to this…


which would lead to this…


which would lead to this…


Yesterday I got this load for free…


It seems that the Canadian agricultural corporate giant has decided that it’s not worth picking up in our area, so friends have been burning it for years.

Chalk one up for localized agriculture I guess.  :)

Alum And Mordanting












Dyeing Llama Fibre With Haskap/Honeyberry/Edible Blue Honeysuckle/Lonicera Caerulea

This post tells about my first dyeing of llama fibre using Lonicera caerulea (haskap) berries.  The llama fibre is unwashed white from one of my own llamas, and the berries are from the Tundra selection of University of Saskatchewan haskap grown in my own orchard.

I set up this test using two sets of four samples:

  • 1 – The first sample remained dry and undyed as a comparison.
  • 2 – The second sample was dyed, but was not soaked or mordanted beforehand.
  • 3 – The third sample was prepared by water soak preparation only.
  • 4 – The fourth sample was prepared using a traditional salt mordant (NaCl).

Two samples were prepared from each.  This will allow a comparison from each  treatment before and after they dry and one is subsequently washed after several days in order to determine colour-fastness of this berry’s properties.

This procedure allowed me to compare later on as a base-line comparison of the simplest sort.


Haskap is a newly cultivated berry that found its way to North America in the 1990’s and is now being intensively bred and selected for at the University of Saskatchewan.  Haskap is the name applied to a superior selection of genotypes of Lonicera caerulea.  These plants are commonly known as edible blue honeysuckles, and also have been marketed using the name of Honeyberries.  Their berries come from flowers that can withstand a -7C freeze and still produce fruit, and the plant is still viable after winter temperatures drop below -40C.  It is truly a northern plant and modern plant origins can be traced to Siberia, the Kamchakta peninsula, and the northern island of Japan.  The berry’s meat itself is coloured a deep, rich burgundy; it stains anything with which it comes into contact a bluish-purple.  The stain can be removed by citric acid.  Otherwise it is very difficult to remove.  I can find no reference to its use as a cloth dye using a simple internet search.  We currently have almost 3,000 plants in our orchard, parts of which are just now coming into full production.


  • Since aluminum and iron can affect the the dying process (serving as mordants themselves), all utensils and pots used were made out of stainless steel.
  • The salt mordant (fixative) consisted of 1/16 cup of salt to 1 cup of water (1/2 cup of salt to 8 cups of water for larger batches).
  • The dye itself consisted of 1 cup of berries to 2 cups of water.  This was brought to a boil, the berries crushed, the mix simmered for an hour with the lid on, and then strained.
  • The third and fourth batches of fibre were simmered for an hour before being dyed.  The third batch was simmered in water alone; the fourth batch was simmered in the salt mordant.
  • All were then simmered in their own respective stainless steel pots with strained dye, again with devoted utensils.
  • These were then set out to dry.


Raw llama fibre…note white guard hairs…
Unwashed white fibre to be used for dyeing…
Fibre opened up...
Fibre opened up…
Frozen Tundra berries to be used as dye...
Frozen Tundra berries to be used as dye…
Fibre sample to be used for four lots, each with a baseline control...
Fibre sample to be used for four lots, each with a baseline control…
Berries in water before boiling...
Berries in water before boiling…
Lot #3, simmered in water only...
Lot #3, simmered in water only…
Lot #4 simmered in salt mordant (these immediately took water compared to lot #3)…
Fresh out of the dye, labeled according to their lot…
Towelled off, the light is not so good inside and late in the day to show its true colour…

Tomorrow I will wash one piece of each lot and see if the dye remains fast or not.  These will serve as a baseline for future dyeing, particularly in relationship to mordants such as alum (potassium aluminum sulfate KAl(SO4)2·12H2O).

Llamas And Fibre

Weaving begins with spinning, begins with carding, begins with cleaning, begins with shearing, begins with llamas, begins with hay…


Not all llama fibre is the same.  In particular when it comes to guard hair, some individuals are guard hair free, while others’ fibre is heavily laden with it.  It is thought that the purpose of guard hair is to serve as a wick that draws water away from the insulating value of the animal’s fibre.  This is helpful for animals living in the wild, whereas people domestically breeding for fibre will select for individuals without guard hair.  Some of my animals have no guard hair (above).  Some have a lot of guard hair (below).


I have raised llamas for twenty years.  But I select animals based upon their tractability as pack animals.

Picture 071_1

The greatest advantage of llama fibre for me is that it is available.  I have 20 years of it dried and stored.  Looking into having it processed these days is ridiculous, cost-wise.  I believe that I will buy an electric carder, and try and figure out how to get it spun.  But in due time..

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