Archives for August 21, 2015

Using Plants to Dye Yarn

This is what I have been doing in every spare moment.  I’m a little obsessed right now.  I’ve dyed yarn with plants in the past, but never with quite this much intensity.  It really is the perfect activity for me, combining many of my loves:  Plants! Yarn! Chemistry!  Jonny noted that I have been doing all sorts of things this summer and speculated that the reason for that might be that I am not pregnant and I don’t have a small baby, though Job certainly does want to be toted all the time lately.  (At dinner Jonny questioned whether Job is a baby or a toddler now.  Seth replied that he’s mostly a troublemaker and that is so true.)

I’ve been asked to do a post all about natural dyeing, but since I’ve done this all of half a dozen times, I better hold off on a tutorial.  Over the past couple of weeks I have dyed with amaranth, elderberry, and goldenrod.  (I have dyed with tickseed sunflower and dock in the past.) The amaranth has been trickiest, because while it is named as a dye plant all over the place, there isn’t much information on actually dyeing with it, and I discovered quickly that extracting the dye with heat and then dyeing with a lot of heat means you get yarn with almost no color.  So I have been experimenting with it quite a bit.  The peachy and coral colored yarns were all dyed with amaranth (the same amaranth that I planted in my garden as a trap crop for cucumber beetles!)

I have been experimenting with over-dyeing amaranth with goldenrod to get warmer shades of golden yellow.  But I think that the most fun of all was taking pale purplish-gray yarn dyed with elderberry, and modifying the dyebath with washing soda to create an alkaline solution which turned the dyebath and yarn a brilliant green! I have pH Test Strips and I am using them, and taking lots of notes along the way.

I am planning on dyeing with pokeweed very soon.  We have so much of it, and rather than chop it down as I usually do, I’ve let it go this year.  I know it’s going to be a messy business so I need a day without much else on the agenda before I attempt it.  Soon!

Here’s a list of books I have referenced:  My favorite is Wild Color.  I’ve had this book for years, and have learned a lot from it.  Recently I purchased both Harvesting Color and A Garden to Dye For, but I haven’t spent much time with either yet.  I also have The Modern Natural Dyer on pre-order.