Saturday, August 25, 2012

Will This Thing Ever Dye? Comfrey

Well, yes, it will... but not "sage green" as the unfounded & lacking specific recipes chart said.
Actually, comfrey will make a lovely sage green, I just haven't figured out how.  I know this because I've seen it done many times on Google Image Search.  Just not by me.  By the time I find a real recipe the plants will be dead for the winter & I'll have to wait till next year.

Comfrey.  Useful. Horrible. Weed.
Anyway, Comfrey.  Multitude of uses, not least of which is Taking Over Your Flower Bed With Roots More Than Three Feet Deep.  No, really.  More than three feet.  I know this because that was the depth of the hole I dug 2 years ago trying to get rid of the nasty buggers.  Didn't work.  Filled the hole in.  Comfrey grew back.

Ooh, pretty green!  How promising...

So, in an attempt, perhaps a misguided one, to get rid of this horrid plant of many uses, I decided to chop some leaves off & cut them up into itty-bitty pieces courtesy of kitchen scissors & a blender; then toss all that green gook into a pot & boil me up some dye!  Surely this will produce a lovely soft sage green as all of the internet claims...

I can only tell you that I filled the pot, not how much things weighed.  Actually, I filled the pot twice, the second time after the first bit boiled down to an incredibly icky spinach looking thing that I don't want to contemplate eating.  So, two sauce pans of chopped green gloppy stuff to make a small dyebath.  (Surely I'll get a lovely sage green)... strained out several times through a paper towel & squeezed for any residual pigment...

Comfrey dye soup?  No thank you.
Into the pot goes the yarn!  (alum mordant)
After all that straining & draining we still have green stuff  "stuck in our teeth."  Yuck. (don't eat it).
Um... yarn's lookin' a bit yellow... OK, maybe it'll turn green later.
30 minute simmer as per (OMG there were directions!.. kinda)...
Not-green comfrey dyed yarn
It's still yellow.  No, it's not green.  It's yellow.  Like a Bad Blonde Wig yellow.  OK, maybe it's not that bad.  Maybe I have to change the ph.  Maybe vinegar will work?  At least a dunk in something will help get all that horrid VM (vegetable matter) out of my nice clean wool!  Vinegar it is...

Not noodle soup, really.

Um... no green.  The green literally leached out into the vinegar leaving me with even MORE yellow.  Wasn't happy about that at the time. (Note to Self: vinegar makes things lighter - sometimes).

Best Pasta Impression of the Year
But after about 20 minutes of rinsing the stuff in cold water the comfrey bits finally let go of my poor yarn (mostly) and I got a nice pale yellow that seems rather stable.  Perhaps my dismay came from the pasta impression; "pasta = pain" for me.

Not-pasta yellow.
It's really not bad... it still looks a bit like spaghetti to me, but it is a nice pretty light yellow.  I'm not dissatisfied.  It just wasn't the sage green I was expecting.  I think next time I'll skip the mordant & see what happens.

Comfrey Yellow Dye Recipe:
1 saucepan of pureed comfrey (put it in a mesh bag, ok?) boiled/simmered for 1 hour.
Strain.  [Compost goop... or incinerate it in a Biohazard bag - that stuff will grow anywhere!]
1 skein of alum mordant wool yarn.
30 min. simmer.
Water/vinegar 4:1 rinse bath after-mordant
lots & lots of cold water to get the icky green bits out.
Spin wool out (Salad Spinner!), hang or lay to dry.

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