Last year I collected a variety of plants and roots attempted to dye two skeins of my hand spun yarn. The results were unimpressive. That seems to be that case with natural dying. You work hard finding the plants, gathering the leaves, the flowers and digging up the roots. Saving over a smelly pot of unappetizing stew of leaves and wool only to end up with blah yellows and browns. There is a true science to dying with plants one I hope to crack.
In order to learn the mysteries of dyeing, I sought help from many sources, I checked out some books form my local library, scoured the internet for recipes and techniques watched a few YouTube videos and chatted with fellow natural dyers or Ravelry. From my research, I recommend reading Wild Color by Jenny Dean, Karen Diadick Casselman. This book has a lot of helpful information as well as a guide of various dye plants. I used Pinterest to find dying techniques and different plants many of them I’m happy to say are invasive weeds. I enjoyed watching some fun videos on dyeing. You can see them here and here. All in all here is what I have learned about Natural dying.
During my research, I came a cross a few websites that told me that I could get a purple out of dandelion roots. excited I vigorously dug up dandelion roots out of my lawn my neighbors lawn and a vacant lot like a crazy person. If you have ever tried to rid your yards of dandelions by digging them up, you know that those suckers are NOT easy to get out. I gathered a pound of these roots and a pound of hand spun wool set up the dye pot after a hour of simmering, this was the result. Needless to say I was pretty up set that I didn’t get purple. This taught me a valuable lesson. There are so many variables with dying that you really cant know what you will get.
2.Dye a lot of Stuff
When I first started dying I made these tiny little sample skeins of yarn. Some of my dying turned out blah but some turned out great. The only problem was I didn’t have enough to repeat the process to get more of the color and what I did dye wasn’t enough to make any thing. So now I make sure to dye enough wool or yarn to make something.
3. Learn to Love Yellow
Yellows and browns are the easiest colors to get with dye plants. I am not a big fan of yellow, however I have learned that Naturally dyed yellows have more life than synthetic dyes. With so may different varieties of yellow I starting to appreciate it.
OK here is the part you came for. The techniques that I have found to work to get great natural colors.
Turmeric is a spice that you can easily get at the grocery store. When used as a dye it gives you a bright yellow.
- Turmeric powder
- Wool or cotton yarn ( or any natural fibers)
- A large pot (I used a pot I bought just for dying. If you plan on dyeing with other plants I recommend getting a dye pot)
- mason jar or glass cup
Fill your pot half way with warm water. Put in what you plan on dyeing in the pot to soak and set aside. Measure out two to three table spoons of alum and place it in mason jar. Pour boiling water in to the mason jar and stir until all the alum is dissolved. Add the alum water to your pot stir gently and let sit for an hour.
After your dye stuff as soaked gently squeeze out the water and set aside. Fill pot with clean warm water and add two to three tea spoons of turmeric powder to the pot. Place on stove as set to boil. Once the water boils turn down the heat to simmer, stir and add dye stuff. Allow your dye pot to simmer, checking every few minutes to make sure that water does not boil. This step is especially important for wool. After an hour has passed, remove from heat and let cool enough you can handle it with out burning your hands. Rinse in warm water and hang to dry.
Black beans are an inexpensive way to get blue to gray and green colors naturally.
- black beans (1 lb bag)
- 2 bowls one with lid
- dye stuff
- baking soda ( use if you want Green)
Pour black beans into the large bowl and cover with cold water. Let sit minimum of eight hours. I let my beans soak for about 12 hours. Prepare your dye stuff using the same method as above.
Carefully strain beans with colander catching the bean water in your bowl with the lid. Your bean water should be a purple blue color if not dump it and start over(Trust Me). If you want green dye add one to two tea spoons of baking soda to bean water and stir. Let your bean water soak in the bowl with a lid letting the sediment settle to the bottom. Submerge you dye stuff put on the lid and let set for a minimum of eight hours, carefully rotating your dye stuff for even color. I left mine for twelve hours. Remove from dye pot and rinse in cold water. hang up to dry.
There you have it. My experience so far with natural dyes I plan on experimenting with different plants through out the summer season. I hope this has inspired you to try natural dying. If you do, I would love you see your results.