Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Indie Dyer in Training Pt 2: Dying with Nature

The dying bug has definitely been wondering around my apartment lately! I have so many fun dying adventures to share with you! But for tonight, I am just going to share one of them.

 As I mentioned yesterday, my buddy Ivy came up this weekend. One of our goals was to get a bit of dying in, since she is an expert (come on Ivy, just admit it!) and I wanted some pointers. One of the things I had been really itching to try was dying with natural dyes, such as plants and berries.

 My aunt has been out of town for about a week now and I have been watching her garden for her. One of the perks is that she said I could pick whatever I wanted for eating and dying.

One thing I learned in my research of plant dyes is that you need to let the plants dry and then boil the plants down to extract the color, and the longer you boil and simmer the richer the color. We decided to start with these yellow flowers that were growing in the backyard she said I should try. I didn't have super high hopes for them honestly because I didn't even know what they were so I couldn't look up if they make good dye.

Apparently I forgot to get a picture of them whole. This is them after they've been broken and placed in my pot.

So, as they boiled we got a bit excited. They were making yellow! YAY! Then about 5 minutes later, they were making burnt.  So the verdict? FAIL.  But now I know not to try these flowers next time. 

The next plant I wanted to try was some carrot tops that I had left over from some carrots I got at Farmer's Market. A book I borrowed from my aunt says that you can use them for dying so I figured why now. Once again, we broke up the tops and placed them in the pot. This time though, we found: SUCCESS!


This dye bath is now sitting in a bowl in my fridge, because I decided against dying anything with it at the time. However, if it lasts, I plan to try dying with it very soon.

Finally, I want to share with you the best part of our experiment. BERRIES! Using a mixture of black currents from my aunt's garden and blackberries I got cheap at Aldis (best store ever!) I smashed the mixture down and did a bit more boiling. 

Here goes nothing!

As they boiled, I noticed that I was getting a very rich purple color, almost like juice. It also felt a bit like making jam! YUM. Well anyways, after about 10 minutes (my gas over cooks really hot, so we had to be careful), we turned off the burner and strained out the berries, only to get a very amazing, grape juice color.

Add some sugar and we'd have jam!

Oh, the wonders of old bed sheets as strainers!

Ok, so I HAD to dye with this color! Luckily, we had visited Wildflower prior to do this batch and I was able to get 2 skeins of Brown Sheep Nature Spun, 100% wool, Sport Weight yarn in pure white.  I knew this would dye up well since it was wool, so I skeined and soaked it while we made dinner (see yesterday's post).

2 Skeins for $9.00? HECK YES!

First ever time using a Niddy Noddy! Thanks Ivy!

Ok, so there were a few steps we skipped to save time. Such as Mordanting the yarn (which is basically adding something, like Alum, to the yarn to make the color stay longer and richer). We also decided to microwave the yarn instead of kettle dying. I am not sure if this would have made it any better, but whoa and behold, I still ended up with something amazing! 

It only took 1, 2 min cycle to get the color to absorb!


A couple of notes.  After the initial dying and drying, the yarn was a bit stiff. A quick soak in the Eucalin bath and this was solved. However, it did lose a bit more color in this process, so if I was to do this again I would  definitely try and mordant the yarn.

I already have the PERFECT pattern picked out for this yarn!  Beribboned Wrists by my good friend and blogger, Shoelaceswitcher! I can't wait to try your pattern!

Photo (C) Shoelaceswitcher.

In other quickie news, TdF is coming along ok. I don't have to get up early tomorrow, so I am going to stay up a bit late to make up on my goal. I am right now about about 1 whole oz spun, and this is what it looks like. I still can't decide if I will ply it or not. It's so luscious, it's hard to decide!

Until WIP Wednesday tomorrow, good night blog land!



  1. YAAAAY! :-D So excited to see your Beribboned Wrists! I love reading about your dyeing adventures, your berry yarn came out such a lovely pink/mauve. And your spinning is looking nice and shiny, too!

  2. Wow! You sure have been busy. It's great to see your experiments/progress as you expand your dyeing skills!

  3. I can just picture you two like mad scientists turned loose in the kitchen. I will so be looking forward to seeing what color the carrot tops make.

  4. The berries look fantastic and soooooo much fun :) I love the gentle colour they've produced - well done!

  5. That was quite the adventure : )
    I'm surprised to hear how much of the dye came out after washing. Such a shame, it was a lovely color. But at least you can just dye it again with food dyes!

    1. I don't think I'm going to re-dye it. I like the color it is now actually. If it fades a lot as a I knit I may change my mind though :/

  6. Oh that's so awesome! I'm so jealous you learned to dye from Ivy! Its so much fun isn't it? I just had my first dying experience this week as well.

  7. OOOH! So much fibery goodness in this post! I loved reading about your dyeing experiments, and I really like the subtle pink color that resulted from the berries. Also, your handspun is looking great, and those mitts are just gorgeous! (PS - Hooray for niddy-noddies! They make life so much easier.) :)

  8. That was really interesting. I love the idea of natural dyes, but I think I'll let the more patient people do it for me!

  9. Now I know how you got berry smelling yarn! I guess it helps if you read the posts in order eh? lol I love how the colors are coming out with your natural dyes :)


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