Sunday, 22 February 2015

Making Extracts and Messes

 I made this post earlier, but it's been languishing in the draft file. So I might as well post it before it gets to the point where it's been too long, like most of my unposted drafts.

While Shemar hasn't been working, I've been doing other things, most especially with my Christmas present, and trying to figure out how to make the mukluks but too scared to actually cut the material. My first project with the new burner has been a bit of a comedy of errors. Like most of my dyeing experiments.

After the last disaster mama said "you are always trying so hard on these projects and they always backfire on you". Which is true and why I'd never be able to do anything creative professionally. Accidents are really the primary part of my creative process.

I've had some cochineal for years and never used it. Since I know it can produce a lot of dye by multiple extractions, I decided I wanted to make a powder extract. I looked on the Place For All Answers, the natural dye list, but couldn't find anything much on the best process to produce a powder extract. So I thought well it would just be about extracting and then dehydrating, can't be that hard. But then I forgot this was being done by me.

The process took up most of January but I did manage to produce 30g of dye extract which should dye 300g of fabric. It's also the amount of bug I started with, so I have an extract that should be ten times more potent than the whole bug. So it's not entirely unsuccessful.

Through the errors I've figured out the best way to do this is to make small batches of dye and then bake it in a pyrex plate at about 300F and scrape out with a razor. But it took a lot of not doing that to get to that point. My basement looks like I killed someone in it, and so did my hands. Red EVERYWHERE. But got to do some cool experiments anyway. And I took pictures for mem's benefit, since he is so interested in dye process (hah). I intended to post them here but I'm lazy so it's taken me the better part of a month.
The bugs secreting their lovely red. I ground them up a little, but not overly so. Once they had been reconstituted, they really did look like bugs again. 

  first extractions, so red they were opaque. I'm pretty sure I did at least 20 extractions before the bugs stopped producing enough colour to be worth it.

At this point I decided to siphon off some of it in case I ruined it and see what I could get for colour. The first attempt precipitated, and now I have some cochineal pigment after I cooked it down. Then I got some nice pinky reds on silk and alpaca. The silk surprisingly took the best colour. This is the same silk I used for Athanasius and John Owen, and it never took ANYTHING well. Except cochineal apparently. 
As I continued to extract, I put the small extractions into my giant stock pot with a light to reduce and the plan to cook that down in the pot. But I started to notice some black sludge forming at the top. Didn't know what it was or why it was there. Was it going bad? I skimmed it off with shop towels.
black crap. 

When I dyed the yarn, I added a little vinegar to shift the colour a bit. The black sludge turned bright orange. Turns out it was dye material and I had gotten rid of it (I had reserved about a cup of it because I wondered if there was something I could do with it and there was soo much. So I only threw away some of it, but it all had to be reconsituted). Here it is on the table where I had spilled some of the black--orange in the vinegar. 
Damn it I threw away dye. I pulled out the shop towels and soaked them in vinegar to pull the dye back out. I'm not sure what kind of chemical thing was going on here, only vinegar would return it to a coloured dye material from a pure black.

   reconstituting the sludge.

 Making a mess. I looked like I slapped someone silly after this. Prolly what Nicholas of Myra looked like after the council of Nicea.

This is the sludge that was sitting at the bottom of the big stock pot when I strained it. I decided to pull that out and start drying it out on its own. 

I put the sludge on some foil and stuck it in my pyrex plate. I cooked it on broil and it worked nicely. The second time I put it on broil without foil, the plate broke when I pulled it out. So I need a new plate. Then I broke another one! Mama told me to put it on bake instead of broil and the rest of the extractions went nicely. But more dye wasted. :( 

Originally I attempted a dehydration set up with a light and aluminum foil. This actually worked pretty well, except the plastic melted and the containers were too small so it took longer for the stuff to dry out and turned out to be difficult to scrape out. I eventually started just pouring each extraction into the pyrex plate and cooked for like half an hour then scraped it out. I'd get about a gram of dye with each extraction. 

Altering the colour of the saved bit. Ammonia added to vinegar. 

After I realized that the black sludge was in fact dye and pulled out what I could from the shop towels soaked in vinegar as well as the cup I reserved, I played with the ph a little. 

This is how you get orange and scarlet with cochineal, it's an indicator dye. That is, the colour can be shifted by changing the ph and by adding different auxiliaries.  The ph on the left is about 4 with vinegar and 8 on the left with ammonia.

The final result. 30g of carmine (I got some more after this). And probably another 30g all over my basement. Some of it did wash out of my housecoat. Some of it.

I'd like to try this with my wood dyes, but they're way more temperature sensitive in my experience, especially logwood. My first logwood experiments became a very ugly brown that actually seemed to discharge the purple colour before it ever even got to the boiling point. That was an interesting, if less than cool experiment. So I guess I'd have to cook at much much lower temps. And probably dehydrate in an actual dehydrator because baking would probably destroy it.

So I have pure forms of two of the dyes for project. Murex next, right?

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