dye process with Marigolds

I love colour, it makes me happy. So, I really wanted to try natural dyeing and see what I could get using veggie scraps, and plants from our yard and nearby roadsides. We moved part way through this project so I was even able to try a couple extra plants I couldn’t find originally. I started out by searching online for commonly used dye plants that are relatively colorfast and easy to produce colour, but unfortunately that didn’t mean that they all produced well for me. Most likely I wasn’t collecting enough dye material (because I was being ethical with my harvesting and there wasn’t always much to be found) for the amount of fiber I was trying to dye. However, it may also have been the wrong season to harvest that dye, or the location wasn’t conducive, maybe I didn’t mordant right, who knows?! But I did get some great colour anyway! Mostly different shades of yellow and lots of greys, but some others too. I love the pale avocado pink and purple-grey when adding iron. The yellow from the Oregan grape, the golden orange onion skin (alum mordanted), the golden Rumex and the Marigold’s bright yellow and sullen green (modified by iron) are my favourite so far. 

Flowers cooking, dye extracted

I’m still trying to flush out my rainbow. I’ll be trying lichen dyeing (for purple) and dandelion root (for red) this fall but it may be that I just need to plant my own dye garden to complete my rainbow, teehee. I’ll add some Japanese indigo or woad for blue and madder root for red. Once I have those, I can try to combine them with all the different yellows I have already to make different greens, oranges and purples. Oooo it makes me so excited to think about!

But I’m ahead of myself, these dyes take time and patience to make. First my toddler and I went out and collected the plant materials multiple times and then I had to extract the colour from them. There are several methods for extracting dye from fresh plant material, I chose to heat them in water on the stove for varying amounts of time, then remove the plant materials.

Then I got to add in the wool, both mordanted (I used alum, a metal that “primes” animal fibers to take dye more readily) and unmordanted, as unprocessed wool (not yet combed or carded) and spun yarn. I continued to heat the wool in the dye bath for about an hour before letting it cool, then let the wool sit in it over night before removing it. I then rinsed the wool until the water ran clear, rolled it up in a t-shirt to squeeze out as much water as possible and then laid the wool out to dry.

Wool in the pot

Some of the dyes were disappointing after seeing what those same plants yielded other people, but the ones that turned out were super exciting.

These are a lot, but not all, of the colours I made over the last year

I have also been spinning some more since I last wrote. I’m getting more consistent and I’ve made a few projects!
The first thing I made was a Christmas gift, an ear warmer headband. I left it undyed, and crocheted a simple cable pattern with a 2-ply yarn. I kind of wish I’d done 3-plys so the cable would stand out more, but I’m still super happy with it!

Currently, I’m working on a chunky knitted infinity-type scarf/cowl, inspired by one in the Outlander TV series. But turns out I didn’t spin quite enough yarn for it (oops), so now I need to comb some more fiber before I can keep going.