This is especially true when it comes to experimenting with natural dyes.
My mom and I each had some wool that we had spun, and we wanted to dye it while I was home. We started by tying our wool into skeins and soaking it in a bath of water and cream of tarter, which helps seal the color into the wool once it's been dyed. While it was soaking, we went out into my mom's new jungle--I mean, garden.This thing is no joke. It has a diameter of 25 feet. There are cucumbers growing in here that are the size of my leg. And more tomatoes than anyone could ever use. (Take that, soulemama.) My mom planted marigolds around the outer edge of the garden because apparently, animals hate marigolds. So we picked those marigolds to make one of our dyes.And then we picked some basil because there is a TON of basil in that garden, and we were hoping it would give us a nice green or yellow.
I was originally envisioning dying the wool over an open fire in the backyard, but with wee little ones running around, this is...difficult, so we decided to go all 21st century and use the stove top.
(Sidenote: did you know that when you use dying agents found in nature, you will never get two colors that clash? It's true. All of nature is color-coordinated. Pretty sweet, huh?)
So we boiled the marigolds and the basil and then strained them and added some vinegar (which makes the dye more color fast), and let them simmer for a bit before adding our wool. Now, if you've never smelled boiling marigolds, you're one lucky duck, or at least that's what just about everyone in my family would say. Over the course of the several hours my mom and I spent hovering over our dyeing wool, my family became a pack of viciously disgruntled whiners. You'd think we were cooking kim chi or something. Sheesh! Nevertheless, my mom and I soldiered on with high hopes that our newly colorful wool would be worth the persecution from the peanut gallery. And this is was the final result (from left to right: basil, not dyed, marigold):Pretty exciting, huh? Yeah, I know. It's not. You'd think that with the brilliant colors of the marigolds and the vibrant green of the basil, we would have ended up with something a little more...lively. But that is the thing about dyeing with natural dyes. They are a box of chocolates, and not one of those helpful ones that gives you a map so you can avoid the roman nougats. (Does anybody actually like those?) Instead, it's a wonderland of mystery. Sometimes you end up with something marvelous, and sometimes you end up with something a little more...mundane. But that's just life. And you can either play it safe and leave all your wool white, or you can take a chance at a little disappointment for the sake of just a splash of variety. So there you have it. My mom said, "You know, it wasn't a failure. The wool isn't white. It's definitely another color...just not a color you like." Gotta love that mom perspective. :o) But I've decided that I do like the colors my wool absorbed. So they're a little dull. So they won't elicit oo's and ah's from the peanut gallery, still bitter over the marigolds' stench. But they do provide a bit of variety, a little change of scenery, and some quality time bonding with my mom. And that, after all, is what it's all about.
"If you try sometimes, you just might find...you get what you need."