Symplocos Part II: Back in Black (beans)

After she got over her noodle disappointment, my housemate wanted to know what comes next. “Well,” I said, “we’re gonna have to eat more black beans.” Back when I taught the workshop at Lambtown, I had soaked four pounds of beans for that dye bath. Four pounds! Dry! That’s a lot of burritos.

So I’ve been kind of holding off on this next round. But with the heat in the house not working, it seemed like a good time to hang around in the kitchen with pots bubbling for hours on end. Since I’m just running two little test skeins, I only soaked one cup of beans. A totally reasonable amount of burritos.

Alum on the left, symplocos on the right.
Alum on the left, symplocos on the right.

I’m trying to be a little more rigorous about keeping track of projects, so: 500% weight of goods, although since the dye is only in the skins of the beans, it’s really much less. Simmered for an hour and a half. I used tap water, which I’m learning is not only really alkaline but also seems to fluctuate pH. The first few times I did black bean dye with Davis tap water, I got greens like I have here. Then for a while I was getting blues, which means the water was more acidic (or at least not as far off from neutral). That shift coincided with moving across town, so I thought it had something to do with the pipes, or which particular wells feed in to which parts of the system. Guess not.

The other surprise came when I popped another skein into the exhaust bath. I was of course expecting a paler color, but I ended up with…brown.

Exhaust bath. Brown.
Exhaust bath. Brown.

I guess there must be two colors in there, and lucky for us the nice ones get sucked up into the fiber first. Live and learn.

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