dimanche 7 février 2010

Silk Carrier Rods - Dyeing with Landscape dyes

  • The photos above are:  carrier rods flattened from the pack.
  • Rods split and one being split - hard to do and hold camera.....
  • A silk cocoon complete with little worm waving from his escape hatch - didn't make it huh?
  • 5 pots of dye on Rayburn and one cup of coffee - thirsty work but don't drink the dye

I obtained some small packets of Australian Landscape (elements) dyes from UK Ebay recently - they are as their name suggests 'landscape', earthy colours with some lovely bright yellows, and bright pinks and blues.  A little goes a long way for dyeing things like carrier rods and cocoons. Silk carrier rods are the scrapings from the poles that guide the silk being extracted from the cocoons.  These poles get covered in a mixture of silk and sericin, which is the gum that the silk worm uses to hold the cocoon together.   Periodically they are cut and discarded, they are now sold and crafters love them for adding to embroidery, weaving and spinning or collage work etc.  They dye beautifully and this is my description of how I dyed a selection of silk carrier rods, mistakes and successes.

I collected jam jars all the same size so I could dispense with measuring - just fill to same level, about half, each time.  The shorter, fatter jam jars (Lidl marmelade) fit better into the microwave.

Apart from jars you will need - teaspoon - hot water - salt - white vinegar - sticks or metal spoons to stir - plastic gloves unless you are careful or like me don't care about having multicoloured hands - and a note pad to jot down quantities iin case you want to repeat colours. Paper towels for drying rods on (can be reused), or wire cake rack.

Today I have used  some old Dylon dyes that I mixed a couple of months ago - Dyes can be used more than once until all the dye is exhausted, but successive dyeings will be progressively lighter.

You will also need a spare,  empty jam jar to strain the finished articles into to save the dye.

The Dylon dyes were rose and peach also bought very cheaply on Ebay.  The Landscape Dyes from Australia were - Wild Raspberry - Marine - Plum and Sage.

Half fill the jam jars with hot water and put  table spoons of salt into each jar, and 2 tablespoons of clear vinegar to each.
Add dye to hot water, I used 1 1/2 (one and a half) teaspoons of dye per jar - cleaning the spoon between dyes.
Mix and set aside - I put the pots on top of the Rayburn to keep them warm.

Prepare carrier rods - I bought 100gms £2.50 UK) from World of Wool (UK)  Link in the side panel to the right.

World of Wool has a shop on Ebay called qualityfibres.   I buy direct from W of W.
Depending on your source you may or may not have to flatten them and split them.  The ones from World of Wool are quite screwed up and need some flattening and there are also worms and cocoons mixed in with them, but the rods are quite thick and I was able to split some of them twice.

IMPORTANT: The first batch I did I put through a 'degumming' process - DON'T do it if you want to use the dyed rods as decoration or inclusions - I did this process so well the silk separated into strands good enough to card and spin !!

The rods can successfully be plit into one or two layers - to do this do them dry, straight out of the pack, flatten out and gently pull along the length of the rod then rub an edge in the middle between your fingers as if you are trying to open a plastic bag at the supermarket!!  Push your fingers inside to separate the layers and gently push your fingers to either end - Voila!!  2 or 3 for the price of one and softer to spin.

You could also just throw them into the dye pots without pulling them apart, you will then get a tie-dye effect, with lighter and darker places depending on the folds in the rods.  This is why I prefer to buy the 'rougher' rods from World of Wool rather than ones already pulled, split, and dyed.

Save some little bits and pieces you find in the bag for dye testing and throw a few into each pot, they are great addition for firbre work as well.

Immerse the split and flattened rods into the dye pots about 6 to 8 in each but depends on size of rods, so just make sure they are all covered in dye fluid, push down with stick or spoon.

Microwave on HIGH (750) for 1 minute.

Take out - jar will be hot - push down any rods that are above dye level but do NOT stir - the rods are always fragile when hot and wet.

Return to microwave on high for 30 seconds

Remove from microwave and stand in a warm place for 4 hours - this time can be lengthened or shortened by testing - pull out one of the rods or a little test scrap - rinse until water runs clear - if dark enough for your purposes - great - if not return to jar - reheat if necessary.  Remember colours will always be slightly  lighter when dry.

Gently lift out rods individually if possible and strain - catch the dye in the clean jam jar to use again.

Wash the jam jar to use for catching the dye from the next pot.

Rinse gently in cold water until water runs clear - spread out rods and dry on paper towels or a wire (stainless) cake rack.

I will post photos of the finished rods good or bad on here, I am waiting for them to dye at the moment while I write this article.

For more information on silk, and silk production got to the endearingly named website: 


For Landscape dyes in the UK:  Try Ebay or Wingham Wool Work - link in my list to the right of this article.

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