The quest for grey...

Thanks to my addition of Brutalist architecture to my visiual research, grey features quite heavily in my colour palette, and it is a notoriously difficult colour to achieve.

According to All Natural Dyeing (2016, online), greys and blacks can be obtained by using:

Oak Galls – Galls
Sumac – leaves
Walnut – hulls
Iris – roots
Black Beans – dried bean

As this is an American site I assume they are referring to the black walnut tree that is native to North America. I am yet to use oak galls, but know I can obtain powder form Wild Colours. Iris root sounds interesting but I have found very little information on this material and where to obtain it.

Burns, R. (2017).  Grey 1.  (Own Collection)

Burns, R. (2017). Grey 1. (Own Collection)

Using iron as a modifier can assist with darkening colours, however there are many questions about it's safe use and disposal, plus it can degrade fibres such as wool:

"This is why old black silks often corrode and disintegrate along the folds and historic carpets develp holes in those areas where a black dye has been used." (Cardon, 2007, 416)

I have used it to darken some blackberry dyed yarn - as I used a semi-exhaisted dye  bath the end result wasn't dark enough. As you can see from the image to the left, the iron modified yarn (top) is very grey.

I do not think I will use this going forwards because of the safety and degradation issues. It has knitted up nicely with the turmeric yarn though (see below) - but these are both impractically dyed yarns!

Burns, R. (2017).  Grey 2.  (Own Collection)

Burns, R. (2017). Grey 2. (Own Collection)

Burns, R. (2017).  Grey 3.  (Own Collection)

Burns, R. (2017). Grey 3. (Own Collection)

Perhaps the alternative is to use yarn that is naturally grey. Sheep fleeces are a variety of colours ranging from ecru to black. For example, I have just bought some lovely Gotland/Shetland yarn from a small farm which is a brilliant grey/brown colour. This would definitely save time, money and a headache! 

Uppingham Yarns produce a range of British Wool which is undyed and available in a range of shades. "The naturally neutral shades are coloured by mother nature as they have selected the wool from 'black' and naturally coloured breeds." (Uppingham Yarns, 2017, online)

I could even overdye the grey/brown shades to try and achieve the darker greys. My mind is whirring, it's a challenge I haven't given up on yet!