The Modern Natural Dyer Work-Along: The Wanderlust Bag

The Modern Natural Dyer Work-Along: January Wrap-Up Reading The Modern Natural Dyer Work-Along: The Wanderlust Bag 7 minutes Next Stitches West 2016

It's February - which means our focus is now upon making The Wanderlust Bag from The Modern Natural Dyer!

Now that we have discussed how to create naturally-dyed colors through the use of a single plant. When looking at the shade cards with a bit more of a discerning eye, you might notice, though the colors on the shade cards are beautiful, they are lacking in colors which many of us are quite fond of - like green (and many shades of red, orange, purple, brown, and blue).  Funny enough, green, the color of plants, seems like it would be an easy, expected color to create with natural dyes. Though, it is a bit more complex than expected. It takes two dyes to create green.

I designed this the Wanderlust Bag to teach you how to use the shade card to combine dyes in order to make shades of green on protein-based fibers. And to open the question of what other colors can be made by combining two (or more) dyes.

This project is also a great foray into practicing dyeing wool fabric which is quite different than dyeing wool yarn. I also wanted to make sure to include sewers - so this is our first sewing project in The Modern Natural Dyer Work-Along.

The Wanderlust Bag comes in two sizes. When designing these bags I wanted to make something with the traveler in mind. I find that when I travel, using smaller vessels, almost like dresser drawers inside my suitcase helps me stay organized. I particularly like box-shaped bags because they are easy to see inside. They are great to be used around town too - during your daily commute. The smaller size makes a great pouch to carry colored pencils and art supplies and the larger bag is good for carrying your current in-progress knitting or sewing project.

Here are some tricks and tips to dyeing fabric green:

+ Right now, the logwood at Verb is very strong. You can use half the amount as stated in The Modern Natural Dyer to achieve the given shades. I adore the aliveness nature imparts - that said, it can come as quite a surprise when going along and getting one shade at a specified amount of dye, to receiving a new batch of dye, and getting a stronger (or weaker) result the next time around. This is another reason why it is important to use your dye journal to record your process. So you can adapt your recipes and can be assured that it is the dye which has changed, not the amount you used.

+ Typically, I use one of the following three yellow dyes, in combination with logwood purple, to create green: weld, fustic, or pomegranate. Weld will give a green with very bright, brassy undertones. Fustic will give a rich green ranging in shades from jade to grey-green. And pomegranate will give a more dusty, brown-green, reminiscent of olive green.

+ When dissolving the dyes, dissolving them in the same liquid measuring cup and combining them in the dyepot will provide the same color results. Creating one dyebath of yellow, and heating the fabric and dye, and then creating another dyebath of purple, and adding the yellow dyed fabric, and then heating, will provide a different green.

+ Sometimes you can alter the color while in the dyeing process. For instance, if you were hoping to achieve a darker green than what is currently showing up in the pot, you can add a smidge more dissolved logwood.

+ Logwood attaches to wool very fast. Once it has attached, it is almost impossible to lessen the purple color. So if in doubt, it is better to go from light green to dark green, then trying to lighten a dark green to a lighter green.

+ You can create an ombre effect by adding the fabric slowly to the dyepot over the course of 20-30 minutes.

+ You can fold or twist the fabric to create a slight pattern, and purposefully making a mottled finish.

+ Fabric can be a bit more persnickety to dye than yarn because blotches can appear on the fabric. They can be on the yarn too! It is just harder to tell - and once the yarn is knit, blotches can make the knit fabric more interesting - rather than perhaps like a stain. There are many reasons why a blotch can appear. During the scouring, mordanting, or dyeing process, the fabric may have been sticking out of the bath, so not treated the same way as the rest of the fabric, or there could have been an air-bubble. Turning the fabric often in all three processes helps. When going to cut out your pattern pieces, you could always "fussy" cut. This means, looking at where any blotches or imperfections are, and strategically place them on the bag, or avoid them all together. There is also the attitude one could employ which to accept the nature and essence of natural dyeing and to embrace all imperfections as beauty.

Do let me know if you have any questions.  At my Oakland studio, I just completed teaching a class dedicated to dyeing the wool fabric used in the wanderlust bag. Each student created their own green fabric. It was very exciting to see all of the different outcomes - from different shades of greens to various methods of twisting and tying in order to make patterns upon the cloth.

On Saturday, February 14th, Tasa is teaching The Wanderlust Bag sewing class. This is a great way to practice sewing a zipper.  And to really help you to complete your Wanderlust Bag (I know from experience how hard it can be to create space to finish projects, and how happy it makes me when I do!). Even if you have not dyed your fabric, but want to come, no worries, simply buy or bring fabric. 

Annually, we attend Stitches West, the largest yarn conference on the West Coast, from February 17-21. Every year, we team up with knitwear designer, Rosemary Hill, to create new naturally-dyed colorways and patterns. This year, I will have my book there, and all of the samples from the projects in the book for you to see. On Sunday, author Clara Parkes is signing her newest book, Knitlandia, in our booth. I do hope if you are in the area, you will come by. I promise it will be great fun!

When I return from Stitches West, I will post an update about my dyeing and sewing of The Wanderlust Bag - so see you soon!

-- Kristine