>

Sparto Weavers Spanish Broom

Sparto (Sparta) Spartium junceum also called Spanish Broom or Weavers Broom is an almost forgotten textile plant that is native to Mediterranean countries. Spanish Broom was introduced to North America and other countries where it has spread in many areas and has become a menace. However, Sparto was once a very useful textile plant.
There are references to weavers broom plants being used for making ropes, footwear, nets, mats, cloth and stuffing for pillows. The flowers are fragrant and can be used for making scented soaps and perfumes. The flowers are also a good source for yellow dyes.
It is thought that the use of Sparto as a textile plant diminished because the fibre is more difficult to process by mechanical means, compared to flax.

Sparto - Spartiumjunceum

Sparto – Spartiumjunceum


The Sparto plants grow along the rocky seasides of coastal Corfu, Greece.

I go on holidays to Corfu every year, where I have a chance to visit with my friend Agathi the weaver. Every time I visit, she pulls some wonderful textile treasure from her many shelves and tells me about it. This time, it was a bedspread made of hand spun Sparto that was made as part of her dowry.


As Agathi does not spin, the Sparto yarn was hand spun by a friend of hers, using a drop spindle. The bedspread was woven on a narrow loom and neatly stitched together in long panels. The handspun Sparto yarn was used as weft along with cotton yarns.

Agathi explained how the Sparto was collected and processed for hand spinning. The process is very similar to that of processing flax fibre.
The stalks of the Sparto plant are cut and then laid to ret in sea water along the shore. Rocks are placed on top of the fibres to keep the Sparto from floating away. This retting process usually takes 3-4 days. The warm salty water breaks down and softens the fibre so that it can be removed from the plant.
The fibrous part is on the outer core of the plant and the woody stem is in the centre. After retting, the fibre is dried and then beaten with a rock or wooden mallet (or scrutched) to help break up the woody core. Agathi described the fibre that is removed as being ‘soft and cottony’ The fibre is then hackled or combed and spun with the drop spindle.

Agathi said that the best time to collect Sparto is in May or June when the stalks are tender and green. I took a short foraging trip along the coast line to see if I could find some of these plants. In September, most of the Sparto have dried and are in seed, but I did find a few plants that were still green. I cut some stalks and brought them home for sampling.
(In the UK, you can purchase Spartium lyceum plants but they are not very hardy in our climate.)

As we live by the seaside, we took a short trip to collect some seawater for my experiments.

Sea Water Collection

Sea Water Collection

I had collected about 400 grams of Sparto stalks, so I placed these into a large bucket of sea water. The stalks are quite long so I had to fold them to fit them into the bucket.

I will leave the Sparta fibre to ret for a few days and check them daily to watch progress.

MORE TO COME AS I ATTEMPT TO PROCESS AND SPIN THIS ‘NEW’ TEXTILE FIBRE…

References
Sparto – A Greek Textile Plant
Helen Bradley-Griebel

The Revival of Sparto
University of the Aegean, Dept of Product and Design Engineering
A research study on the potential of a forgotten natural fiber in today’s world

Alkanet Root Plant Dye Recipe

Alkanet Root Dye Recipe for Linen, Cotton and Cellulose Fibres
Alkana Tinctoria

for 100 grams of fibre
20 grams Alkanet Root Rhubarb Dye Powder
Soak the Alkanet in a glass jar overnight with a bit of alcohol. This helps to release the dye pigment from the Alkanet. I leave the jar outside as the alcohol fumes can be overpowering and flammable.
The following day Put Alkanet Root into dye pot filled with water.
Let simmer in dyepot for +1 hour at 50 deg.
Add pre-mordanted wool yarn and sample fabrics.
Let simmer in dyepot for +1 hour.
Remove the wool yarn. Let this cool and rinse thoroughly to remove the excess dye powder.
Turn the heat off the dyepot and leave the linen and cotton samples to soak overnight. More colour will continue to develop as the dyebath cools.

Alkanet Dyed Linen Cotton

Alkanet Dyed Linen Cotton

All cellulose fibres, yarns and fabrics must be scoured prior to mordanting or dyeing. Please see my previous article on how to do this.
How to Scour Linen

For these samples, I used several different linen and cotton fabrics as well as wool yarn.

Linen and Cotton Fabric Samples

Linen and Cotton Fabric Samples


Bleached Cotton
Unbleached Cotton
Bleached Linen
Linen/Cotton Blend
Natural Linen (light weight)
Natural Linen (heavy weight)

More about Plant Dyed Yarns
Madder Root Dye Recipe
Brazilwood Dye Recipe
Eucalyptus Leaves Dye Recipe
Himalayan Rhubarb Dye Recipe

Paivatar – Plant Dyed Wool Yarns
Look for some of my plant dyed yarns at my PaivatarYarn Shop on Etsy.

Natural Dye Books
Natural Dyes
The Art and Craft of Natural Dyeing: Traditional Recipes for Modern Use
Botanical Colour at your Fingertips

Skein Winder Counter

Did you know that you can set up a simple bike odometer for use as a skein winder counter? For several years, I have struggled with keeping track of counting how many times to turn the skein winder in order to wind on a given length of yarn. Often I would lose track and have to start again, or recount the number of strands that have been wound on.

As I’ve been winding a lot of skeins lately in order to dye yarns, I decided to try and find a better solution to the counting and keeping track problem. Happily, I discovered that adapting a bike odometer will solve this problem. I purchased an inexpensive bike odometer from Amazon.

You can use the Distance counter on the bike odometer to keep track of the ‘distance’ or length of yarn that has been wound or has travelled around the skein winder. DST – Distance of Single Trip. Here’s how.

The bike odometer that I purchased has everything you need to get started:
Bike Odometer
Sensor
Magnet
Batteries
When you get your bike odometer, install the batteries as instructed. One goes into the odometer, and another goes into the sensor. You will need to calibrate the odometer to the circumference size of your skein winder (bike wheel)
Use a tape measure to determine the circumference of the skeind winder. You probably know how much this is already since you wind and measure skeins already. But double check.
The bike odometer should work in both km and miles, but I find it easier to do the calculations in metric.
My skein winder has a 132 cm circumference or 1.320 meters.

Skein Winder Circumference

Skein Winder Circumference


Follow the instructions to calibrate the odometer. I set this to 1320.

Then attach the Magnet to one of the spokes on the skein winder. It’s best to put the magnet at one of the far ends of the spoke and not close to the centre. Then attach the Sensor to a fixed position like a table leg. This has to be quite close to the magnet, so that as the magnet passes by the sensor it picks up the movement. In the instructions for this bike odometer, the sensor/magnet distance has to be within 3 mm as it passes on its rotation.

Bike Odometer Sensor / Magnet

Bike Odometer Sensor

Set the odometer so that it is ready to record. You will be using the DST setting. The reading that the odometer provides is the number of meters or kilometers that the bike wheel or skein winder has travelled, not the number of rotations. So this provides you with the number of meters of yarn that have been wound onto the skein.

Skein Winder Counter

Skein Winder Counter

In this example, I have wound on 150 meters of yarn onto the skein – 0.150 km on the DST reading.
Reset the DST reading back to zero every time you wind a new skein.
I tested this on several yarns by calculating how much I thought should be on the skein and comparing it to the weight of the skein.
For this yarn, it has a yardage of 3000 m/kg.
So a 50 gram skein of yarn should have a length of 150 meters.
I weighed the skein and it does weigh 50 grams.
An ongoing problem solved, without a lot of expense!

Himalayan Rhubarb Natural Dye Recipe

Himalayan Rhubarb Dye Recipe for Linen, Cotton and Cellulose Fibres
Rheum Emodi

for 100 grams of fibre
20 grams Himalayan Rhubarb Dye Powder
Put Himalayan Rhubarb into dye pot.
Let simmer in dyepot for +1 hour at 50 deg.
Add pre-mordanted wool yarn and sample fabrics.
Let simmer in dyepot for +1 hour.
Remove the wool yarn. Let this cool and rinse thoroughly to remove the excess dye powder.
Turn the heat off the dyepot and leave the linen and cotton samples to soak overnight. More colour will continue to develop as the dyebath cools.

Himalayan Rhubarb Natural Dye

Himalayan Rhubarb Natural Dye

All cellulose fibres, yarns and fabrics must be scoured prior to mordanting or dyeing. Please see my previous article on how to do this.
How to Scour Linen

For these samples, I used several different linen and cotton fabrics as well as wool yarn.

Linen and Cotton Fabric Samples

Linen and Cotton Fabric Samples


Bleached Cotton
Unbleached Cotton
Bleached Linen
Linen/Cotton Blend
Natural Linen (light weight)
Natural Linen (heavy weight)

More about Plant Dyed Yarns
Madder Root Dye Recipe
Brazilwood Dye Recipe

Paivatar – Plant Dyed Wool Yarns
Look for some of my plant dyed yarns at my PaivatarYarn Shop on Etsy.

Natural Dye Books
Natural Dyes
The Art and Craft of Natural Dyeing: Traditional Recipes for Modern Use
Botanical Colour at your Fingertips

Eucalyptus Leaves Dye Recipe

Eucalyptus Dye Recipe for Linen, Cotton and Cellulose Fibres
On a recent trip to Greece, I collected some Eucalyptus leaves and took them home in my suitcase. I let them dry and then crushed them for use in my dyepot.

for 100 grams of fibre
50 grams dried Eucalyptus Leaves
Put crushed Eucalyptus leaves into dye pot.
Let simmer in dyepot for +1 hour at 50 deg.
Add pre-mordanted wool yarn and sample fabrics.
Let simmer in dyepot for +1 hour.
Remove the wool yarn. Let this cool and rinse thoroughly to remove the excess dye powder.
Turn the heat off the dyepot and leave the linen and cotton samples to soak overnight. More colour will continue to develop as the dyebath cools.

Eucalyptus Leaves Natural dye

Eucalyptus Leaves Natural dye

All cellulose fibres, yarns and fabrics must be scoured prior to mordanting or dyeing. Please see my previous article on how to do this.
How to Scour Linen

For these samples, I used several different linen and cotton fabrics as well as wool yarn.

Linen and Cotton Fabric Samples

Linen and Cotton Fabric Samples


Unbleached Cotton
Bleached Linen
Linen/Cotton Blend
Natural Linen (light weight)
Natural Linen (heavy weight)

More about Plant Dyed Yarns
Madder Root Dye Recipe
Brazilwood Dye Recipe
Himalayan Rhubarb Dye

Paivatar – Plant Dyed Wool Yarns
Look for some of my plant dyed yarns at my PaivatarYarn Shop on Etsy.

Natural Dye Books
Natural Dyes
The Art and Craft of Natural Dyeing: Traditional Recipes for Modern Use
Botanical Colour at your Fingertips

Brazilwood Dye on Linen and Cotton

Brazilwood Dye Recipe for Linen, Cotton and Cellulose Fibres
Caesalpinia Sappan

for 100 grams of fibre
20 grams Brazilwood powder – Caesalpinia Sappan
Put Brazilwood dye powder into dye pot.
Let simmer in dyepot for +1 hour at 50 deg.
Add pre-mordanted wool yarn and sample fabrics.
Let simmer in dyepot for +1 hour.
Remove the wool yarn. Let this cool and rinse thoroughly to remove the excess dye powder.
Turn the heat off the dyepot and leave the linen and cotton samples to soak overnight. More colour will continue to develop as the dyebath cools.

Brazilwood Dye on Linen and Cotton

Brazilwood Dye on Linen and Cotton

All cellulose fibres, yarns and fabrics must be scoured prior to mordanting or dyeing. Please see my previous article on how to do this.
How to Scour Linen

For these samples, I used several different linen and cotton fabrics as well as wool yarn.

Linen and Cotton Fabric Samples

Linen and Cotton Fabric Samples


Unbleached Cotton
Bleached Linen
Linen/Cotton Blend
Natural Linen (light weight)
Natural Linen (heavy weight)

Natural Dye Books
Natural Dyes
The Art and Craft of Natural Dyeing: Traditional Recipes for Modern Use
Botanical Colour at your Fingertips

Madder Root Dye On Linen

Madder Root Dye Recipe for Linen, Cotton and Cellulose Fibres

All cellulose fibres, yarns and fabrics must be scoured prior to mordanting or dyeing. Please see my previous article on how to do this.
How to Scour Linen

For these samples, I used several different linen and cotton fabrics as well as wool yarn.

Linen and Cotton Fabric Samples

Linen and Cotton Fabric Samples


Unbleached Cotton
Bleached Linen
Linen/Cotton Blend
Natural Linen (light weight)
Natural Linen (heavy weight)

Madder Root Dye Recipe
for 100 grams of fibre
20 grams Indian Madder Root powder – Rubia Cordifolia
Put Madder Root dye powder into dye pot.
Let simmer in dyepot for +1 hour at 50 deg.
Add pre-mordanted wool yarn and sample fabrics.
Let simmer in dyepot for +1 hour.
Remove the wool yarn. Let this cool and rinse thoroughly to remove the excess dye powder.
Turn the heat off the dyepot and leave the linen and cotton samples to soak overnight. More colour will continue to develop as the dyebath cools.

Indian Madder on Linen and Cotton

Indian Madder on Linen and Cotton

Himalayan Rhubarb Plant Dye
Eucalyptus Leaf Plant Dye
Brazilwood Plant Dye

Natural Dye Books
Natural Dyes

Botanical Colour at your Fingertips

How to Scour and Mordant Cotton and Linen

The secret to successful natural dyeing of cellulose fibres, yarns and fabrics such as cotton and linen is thorough scouring. The scouring process removes natural oils, waxes and pectins from the fibre so that the dyes can penetrate the fibre more readily. Scouring and mordanting cellulose fibres is a more time consuming process than when mordanting wool and protein fibres. But it is well worth taking the extra time to prepare your fabric before you put it into the dyepot.

Here is a sample of natural brown linen fabric that has been dyed with Madder Root. One has been scoured prior to Aluminium Acetate mordant and Madder dye, and one hasn’t.

Scoured Linen Sample

Scoured Linen Sample

How to Scour Linen and Cotton
Weigh out the fabric or yarn you wish to scour.
For 100 grams of fabric I use:
10 grams Soda Ash
3 grams Carbolic Soap
Add this to water and mix.
Add the yarn or fabric.
Bring to a boil and let it simmer +2 to 3 hours.

The water will become brown as the waxes and oils are released from the fabric.
Even a bleached white linen will give you water that looks murky.
Let the fabric cool and then remove it from the scouring soak.
Rinse the fabric thoroughly.

Scour Linen and Cotton

Scour Linen and Cotton

As the Soda Ash has a high pH, the fabric needs to be soaked in an acidic vinegar solution to return the pH back to neutral. Plant dyes are sensitive to different pH levels and this can affect the final colour, so changes in pH during the mordanting process must be neutralized before dyeing the fabric.

Mordant for Cotton and Linen
To mordant cellulose fibres I use Aluminium Acetate
To mordant 100 grams of fabric,
Mix 5 grams aluminium acetate into a bowl or plastic bucket of hot tap water.
Stir until dissolved.
Add the scoured and rinsed fabric or yarn.
Let this soak for + 1 hour.

The yarn or fabric can then be removed from the mordant solution and allowed to dry, or it is ready to use as is.

Where to purchase Aluminium Acetate (in UK)
Wild Colours
George Weil

More about Plant Dyed Yarns
Madder Root Dye Recipe
Brazilwood Dye Recipe
Eucalyptus Leaf Dye
Himalayan Rhubarb Dye

Paivatar – Plant Dyed Wool Yarns
Look for some of my plant dyed yarns at my PaivatarYarn Shop on Etsy.

Natural Dye Books
Wild Color, Revised and Updated Edition: The Complete Guide to Making and Using Natural Dyes
The Modern Natural Dyer: A Comprehensive Guide to Dyeing Silk, Wool, Linen and Cotton at Home
Eco Colour: Botanical Dyes for Beautiful Textiles
Wild Color: The Complete Guide to Making and Using Natural Dyes

This page last edited on September 16, 2017

by


All Fiber Arts by Paivi Suomi is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Advertisements

This website contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on the links. This helps to cover the costs of keeping this website alive. Thank you for your support.

Interweave Kits

Beading, Crochet, Jewelry, Knitting, Quilting, Sewing and Craft