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Spinning and splashing

  • ELSA KERSCHNER/TIMES NEWS Kathy Augustine displays samples of items she has dyed.
    ELSA KERSCHNER/TIMES NEWS Kathy Augustine displays samples of items she has dyed.
Published August 27. 2010 05:00PM

When introducing Kathy Augustine at the July 29 program at the Kibler School, Towamensing Township, Kay Gilbert, president of Friends of Kibler, said Augustine had been there before to make a presentation. That time it was a program about spinning. Her mother-in-law, Connie Bieling, said Augustine spun wool to have something to dye.

"Tonight is all about color," said Augustine. "Color is defined by how the brain responds to light. Everyone perceives color in a slightly different way."

It was Sir Isaac Newton who saw how a prism broke color into the rainbow colors.

She showed a color wheel with the primary colors of red, yellow and blue, and how they blend into the secondary colors of orange, green and violet. With further blending the tertiary colors are reached. Colors opposite each other on the wheel complement each other when used together.

"One of the interesting things is that all colors have meanings associated with them," said Augustine.

In Elizabethan England, people were allowed to wear only certain colors. Those made with expensive dyes were for the wealthy and common colors were for the peasants.

Red is symbolic of fire, guilt, sin and anger. Red is the universal color for stop signs. It was the symbol of sin in "The Scarlet Letter," and in the Orient it is used for envelopes used to donate money.

Other uses are The Red Hat Society, the Republican party and the Redcoats.

Hernando Cortez discovered the cochineal beetle in Mexico. That carmine red dye was used on British military coats. It took 70,000 dried beetles to make one pound of dye, and the British used 240,000 pounds a year.

Yellow is for the renewal of hope. It is found in penalty flags for football, yellow journalism and the "Yellow Submarine." The most expensive yellow dye is made from saffron.

Blue is for Heavenly Grace and a state of servitude such as the blue-collar workers. Making it produced such an odor that it could not be manufactured within five miles of Queen Elizabeth's castle.

Green is the symbol of Ireland and stands for fairies and wealth (greenbacks).

There was no word for orange until 1512 when the fruit was imported to England. It stands for courage, the Netherlands, Hindusim, is on the Sri Lankan flag and is used for safety equipment and prison jump suits.

Purple was the symbol of royalty as far back as Romans in their purple togas. It meant wealth and power. The name Phoenicia was "the land of the purple dye." It took 10,000 murex mollusks (snails) to provide enough purple dye for one toga.

Color was used in cosmetics as early as 5000 B.C. and by 1500 it was used to make food taste better by improving the appearance.

Three million pounds of red color is used in foods in one year. Augustine held up a cake mix and read from the list of ingredients that it contained both red and yellow. Mountain Dew contains yellow.

Apple pie filling is one of the few products that does not have added color.

The colors Augustine uses are either no-sugar Kool Aid or Wilton food coloring. The two are used on fiber from animals. They will not work on plant fibers. She said when she is out she watches for new, interesting colors of Kool Aid.

"These are things you can use in your own dishes," she said.

A "glug" of white vinegar is used in the water in which the wool is heated and dyed. Heat sets the color.

You don't want to agitate it too much because it may 'felt' producing a different material which is made by pounding animal fibers, said Augustine.

It is easy to dye over any light color. She takes sweaters apart and reuses the yarn.

A casserole filled with yarn is heated and then blue dye is poured over one side and green on the other, with blends in the middle where they meet.

If a dyed product ends up with small white spots, the Kool Aid powder can be sprinkled on it or dark spots can be achieved in the same manner.

As Augustine removes the yarn from the jars, people see there is no more dye though the water-vinegar mix remains.

The yarn is transferred to a colander where water is poured over it gradually to rinse. Then it can be pressed with a potato masher.

The yarn can be spread outside to dry, or as Augustine did, hang it over a handy tree branch.

Dying secrets used to be protected in guilds but now anyone can do it.

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