It’s been a rather dramatic and sad week, not least for the reasons that have kept my former home city of many years, still home to many friends and family, in the news every day. Amidst all the drama, and news fatigue, and missing Dan who is away on a trip for a few weeks, I’ve found it strangely comforting to be meditatively working on a craft that demands very little labor on my part — and instead involves quietly waiting, observing, and marveling. To just watch, to feel the concrete weight of a glass jar full of a vibrant color, to pay attention to the transformation that is taking place, is somehow so steadying. This too is real, this simple, natural process happening quietly, at its own pace, without budging — and in the end yielding something completely, unexpectedly lovely.
I’ve been dyeing yarn with black beans. That’s right — regular dry black beans that can be bought at any grocery store. In fact, if natural dyeing is something you are curious to try out, this would be my No. 1 recommendation for a first trial. The beans are affordable and easy to find, so even you’re not happy with the results the first time around, you won’t have wasted lots of resources. Not only is this process low-cost, it is also not labor-intensive, as it requires no heating of the dye material or the yarns. You simply soak the beans in cold water for up to 48 hours, then extract the soaking water by ladling it into a pot (or large glass jars as I did), and put in the material you want to dye for another 48 hours or so. I followed these instructions. The beans yield a range of blues and lavenders, but it’s always a surprise what exactly you end up with, depending on a variety of factors.I obtained lavenders and baby blues from my first two dye baths. The lavender came from soaking the beans in tap water, which apparently is quite hard around here; once I switched to rain water, the hues turned out a much cleaner light blue. Some people have ended up with bright cadet blues — so it’s all in the experimentation. All of the yarns are alum mordanted prior to dyeing. The results are a little uneven, but I think it will look beautiful when I knit these into something… which, speaking of steadying meditative crafts, is also high up on my list.