The color of amaryllis
Friday April 18th 2008, 10:45 pm
Filed under: Amaryllis,To dye for

spent amaryllis blossoms that inspired all thisI was clipping off the spent amaryllis flowers to try to get a good photo of the ones on the stalk still going, and, as I often do, got red dripping onto my hands.

Staining my hands. It took some scrubbing to wash it off.


Wait a minute.

Them’s protein fibers there, hon. Okay, I know you’re supposed to have so many pounds of natural dyestuffs per pound of fiber, but this is what I’ve got and I’m curious to see.

Which is how I found myself stirring at the stove, searching my stash, wishing I had just the right hank, and then checking my calendar: the 18th. Third Friday of the month. YES!!! Richard and I very quickly found ourselves (he’s a good sport) driving together over to Purlescence, where they were having their monthly late-night movie night: come bring your knitting and watch the show. I was telling him, “We’re having a yarn date!”

“If this is a yarn date, I get to have radio dates.” Okay, I’ve gone to a few of his ham radio meetings already, and I threatened to (again) bring my knitting to those if he said that. We called it a truce, and pulled up to the store.

amaryllis flowers into the potI snuck in on tiptoes (while various friends waved silently hi) and whispered to Nathania, “I have a yarn emergency!” Okay, me whispering is a bit funny, because I can whisper but I can’t hear whispering back and I can only guess how I sound because I just plain am totally deaf to it. But I didn’t used to be, so I think I can guess reasonably okay. She was patient with me. They all were. I didn’t need words in answer anyway, just a nod that yes, it was okay to buy yarn on movie night. She laughed. Bottom cubby at the end, I knew, I went right to it.

I knew how much yardage I wanted, I knew what I wanted to make, and I knew I could never make it with anything thicker than laceweight–there just weren’t enough blossoms, and I sure as heck wasn’t going to break off any still in full splendor.Alpaca With A Twist’s Fino on Robert’s handweaving

Not that I didn’t think about it. The Lady Jane looked right back at me and declared frantically, You don’t wear orange and you know it! …Okay, you’re fine.

And thus I had spent the afternoon boiling old flowers, checking Google–let’s see: the bulbs are poisonous. For cats. In large quantities. I decided I was leaving it in my dedicated dyepot to be safe, which ruled out various other methods of dyeing. I debated with Richard as we drove home from Purlescence with my prize, some baby alpaca/silk white Fino (they had one skein left! YES!!!) Do I soak the hank first, or let it dye “blotchily pretty?”

“Pretty and blotchy don’t normally go together.”

“Oh, but in a handpaint they can. But if I do that, people will think the blotches are from the amaryllis. But if I don’t–will more of the dye take up if I put it in dry? But whatever hits the water first will soak up most of it, thus the blotches.” He put up with my working it out out loud.

I decided I was going to have to wash the hank first anyway, just to make sure there was no leftover mill oil that might keep the dye off. So that means it would be wet and would take up color evenly. Fine.

amaryllis flowers simmered for dyebathWe got home, and I fished all the flower parts out of the now-cool water and turned the heat back on under it. I put the Fino in and the yarn kind of put its hand on its hip and went oh, yeah? So what? Oh. Right. I fished it back out with my dye spoon, glugged some vinegar in while holding it aloft, swished it around a good one with my free hand tipping the pot back and forth, and put the hank back in.

Alright! That’s more like it!

It is bubbling away, and so am I. I’m having way too much fun.white Alpaca Fino in amaryllis dyebath

7 Comments so far
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Oh, I loved this one!! I felt like I was in the backseat listenin’ & as tickled as a chicken with a junebug to go along to the yarn store. What a wonderful spur-of-the-moment trek!
So much fun..thanks! Can’t wait to see the yarn all knit up!

Comment by Toni 04.19.08 @ 6:18 am

!!! So cool! That’s so neat that you’re able to use your flowers to dye. I can’t wait to see how it turns out.

Comment by Liz 04.19.08 @ 6:23 am

I can’t wait to see what that skein looks like after the dyebath.
BTW, I probably would have mixed the red and the orange blossoms…ask Lisa about why that might make sense?

Comment by Karin 04.19.08 @ 6:39 am

Yes – way too much fun. Wait, can that be? Nope. Never.

Comment by Linda W 04.19.08 @ 8:15 am

I can’t wait to see it all dried and pretty!

Comment by heather 04.19.08 @ 8:31 am

It’s warm enough that I can open the windows. I have a dedicated dyepot. I’m spinning Romney into something that is frighteningly similar to thread.

I think in the next few weeks, I’m going to get the Twisted Sisters book, and try out the “hot pour” method the way I always wanted to.

You’ll know when I do it, because I’ll be blogging/crying for help for a week before hand. 🙂

Much love.

Comment by Kristine 04.19.08 @ 8:47 am

I love the yarn date! And I am looking forward to seeing the finished result–what a great idea!

Comment by Toni 04.19.08 @ 2:29 pm

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