Sunday, May 23, 2010

On the Woad again

Sarah's woad from last year is flowering.  It looks like broccoli side shoots coming up about 30 inches high right now.  And the flowers are still closed.  Time to dig out those roots before the plants go to seed and become Woad Weeds.

But it is such a shame to waste all that woad dye potential.  So she is clearing the bed a few plants at a time.  3 kg. of plant material, with these 2nd year plants, gives a good medium blue to 100 grams of yarn, and a sky blue to a second 100 gram skein of yarn.  That's about the same colour that you can get from first year leaves, but with these plants there is a lot more material per plant -- so more dye potential.  4 plants are giving her 3 kg. of plant material.

The catch is that the florets turn to mush in the extraction bath, adding a lot of contamination.  So to compensate, after the indigo is extracted from the plant material, the bath is strained twice through a coarse sieve and then through a fine sieve, to get out the contamination.  Then the vat pH is changed to 9 and the vat is oxidized to precipitate out the indigo.  We are dyeing with the reduced indigo after this step.  For information on how to extract blue from woad see Sarah's website.

This year's woad bed will be planted this week, hopefully.  Its been cold and damp the last 3 weeks, after a warm spell in April, so we aren't getting much garden work done.  Yesterday, I weeded, (with help from Melinda, our wwoofer from South Africa) the pea bed and replanted the bare patches, planted salad greens, weld and coreopsis in another bed, then in a 3rd bed planted calendula along with chard, and oriental greens.  I find that planting the dye plants in with the vegetables keeps the vegetable pests confused.

I also continued working on weeding the madder bed.  The quack grass is persistent but the madder is still growing.  It will get a wheel barrow load of compost next.  The 4 year old dyer's chamomile seems dead, but there is a lot of new plants, self seeded, around the bed so all is not lost. 

And I finished a pair of fingerless gloves out of handspun fawn angora yesterday and cast on a second pair from handspun white angora.  I'm working on designing a knitting kit from the angora -- trying to get the pattern down to a 50 gram skein of angora.

Pictures coming.

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