A good piece of time has passed since we wrote about our avocado dying project. In the interim, lots has been happening at the farm. After going for much of December and all of January with temperatures that never reached above 32°F (0°C) and which often bottomed out below -10°F (-23°C), we have spent the last three days above freezing during daylight hours. It is amazing to see how much of our once deep snow cover has already disappeared.
Life is more comfortable outside. We have had a White-throated Sparrow spending the winter at the farm. He seems to have a minor wing injury, but at least seems to be able to fly short distances quite well. He obviously was not able to migrate south with the rest of his buddies. Despite the extreme cold he has been first at the feeder each morning and last to leave each evening. “Poor Sam Peabody” seems to be a bit relieved with these last few days of warmer temperatures. We continue to wish him well and hope that he makes it into spring.
In the barn, life is toasty warm; all of a sudden shearing cannot seem to come too quickly (and it will come in three weeks time)! The warmer temperatures and longer days have inspired the chickens to start laying, all of a sudden with seemingly great enthusiasm. As they spend the winter housed in the barn extension with the rams, it is pleasant to once again hear their happy conversations after a relatively quiet winter.
We finished our first dye bath with our avocado collection. The yarn is now dried and skeined. We were a bit surprised and a little disappointed that the solutions from both the pits and the skins did not produce darker yarns. It had been our hope that the large volume of pits and skins would have resulted in more intense shades than they did. In each case we dyed two skeins (each about 4 ounces in weight) the bath. When we were finished there seemed to be a significant amount of color remaining in the bath, as if the yarn had been saturated.
As can be seen in the photo, the shades are light. Nonetheless they are both lovely colors. Compared to a comparable dying we did a year ago, with a lesser volume of avocados, the shades are about the same. We only used alum as a mordant, which generally will result in less intense shades than other mordants. We since have found one source which suggests that a much longer time is necessary in the dye bath for the yarn to fully accept the avocado dyes.
Once we had drained the dye solution from the pits and from the skins we were able to grind up each group much more finely than we were able to originally. The re-ground materials again have been soaking in a water solution for a couple of weeks. If anything, the solutions again seem to be as intense as the first go-round. So we are going to have another go at it, with some modifications. We will again dye two skeins in each solution, but this time we will only remove one skein after the first day and leave the second in for a longer period of days. Secondly we will be using alum and copper sulfate as our mordants. We tend to shy away from using the other, more toxic mordants; it is unfortunate that there are not a greater choice of environmentally and health friendly mordants! As time allows we will report back with the results.