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Dyeing with Hopi Sunflower seeds

In looking around online I could find no useful information on dyeing with Hopi Sunflower seeds! This is my second year growing them so I was inspired to show you my process. I primarily dye on linen I have spun and know that colors dye differently on linen than they do on wool so I also dyed some Churro roving I have for this tutorial as I wanted to see what the dye does on wool.

NOTE: the linen was mordanted with juniper ash water (I have a blog post, and video, of the process of obtaining the ash) and then 2 baths of alum and cream of tartar. The wool had 2 baths of alum and cream of tartar.

So let's start! I started with a couple small sunflower heads I had drying in my pantry for a couple weeks. I remembered last year that dried ones seemed to work fine but I also remembered the magic I saw happen with a freshly cut head's seeds! So I am showing you both.

For those who like weight and scientific perspectives I have done my best to offer some information on that. I weighed the dry seeds and the fresh seeds, assuming the fresh seeds were heavier per quantity? And I got more seeds from one larger head than 2 smaller ones. So I do not think weight is relevant in this case. I had, all seeds combined, about 3/8 of a cup of seeds. It was approx 22 grams of fiber. I do not believe I exhausted the bath so I put in a container and froze it for later.

In this first picture this is fresh seeds and I put in a jar of cold water. You will notice immediately that the seeds start to release their color! It is rather magical!

Dried seeds will slowly release their dye as the seeds absorb moisture. Here is a picture of the water in both jars, with dried on the left and fresh on the right, after about an hour. You can see the dried seeds are not as magical to watch! Haha! You can also see how there are many more seeds in the fresh jar, on the right, than the dried seeds.

After 5+ hours of sitting in water both jars had great color. (I did stir occasionally only because I am impatient). The jar on the left (you don't see the whole jar but see enough?) is the dried seeds and they were only about 15% of the 3/8 of a cup of seeds. As such I thought it looked like, dry or fresh, the seeds retained their color equally?

I then put it all in a dye pot, along with a bit more water, and simmered for 30 minutes. I then let the dye sit overnight, with the seeds in the dye bath. I think I did this about 5 pm so overnight was almost 24 hrs?

NOTE: In a later experiment I used fresh seeds, simmered, strained, and dyed and the color was just as good. I will, however, continue to soak dried seeds overnight!

The next morning I strained off the seeds. The dye bath went back in my stainless steel pot on the stove where I added my wool and linen. I simmered for about 30 minutes and then let sit and cool a bit, again 30 minutes.

HERE is a side trip in my dyeing process! When I am simmering plant material and unsure about what the dye will do with additives, (soda, iron, acid) I put a few drops of the dye bath on my stove. I then sprinkle on washing soda, citric acid, or a drop of my rusty nail iron water. This gives me an idea if anything changes. I remember that the sunflowers last year reacted wonderfully, surprisingly, to citric acid! You can see it took away blue hues!!!

Back to the results! In the picture below you see wool roving and linen that has been woven or is in the form of a tassel. To the left is the color without any additives. It is more blue than the picture shows. In some lights it is a deep purple and in others a navy with a hint of purple?

The middle collection had citric acid (a small pinch) mixed in a water bath wherein the fiber was dipped in and rinsed out. I sprinkle a little citric acid in water, and add more if I want. With these seeds ever pinch of the acid really alters the color quickly! I imagine you could use vinegar or lemon juice but I always have citric acid around.

Lastly there is the addition of an iron bath which turned it into more of a slate/gray blue. (under that dye group you see the nylon/polyester? bag that the wool was mordanted in and dyed in. It dyed too!)

Overall I am really thrilled, and in love, with Hopi Sunflowers! They really add a depth of color to the possibilities!!

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