english girl at home

A Sewing & Knitting Blog, Made in Birmingham, England


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Acid Dyed Self-Striping Sock Yarn

Naturally Dyed Yarn

At the most recent meeting of my Weavers, Spinners and Dyers guild, we tried out acid dyes in addition to the natural dyes I previously blogged about. Led by fellow WSD member Rachel, I took the opportunity to dye some white yarn to make self-striping sock yarn.

Dyer's Picnic, Birmingham & District Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers

Acid dyes work with protein (animal) fibres and with nylon (as it’s also a polyamide), but not cellulose (plant) fibres. The yarn I was using was a wool and nylon blend. Acid dyes can be purchased with or without the acid already included. We used Kemtex and Colourcraft powdered dyes, and added white vinegar (citric acid is an alternative option) as our acid.

When mixing the powdered dye with the acid you only require 5 gram (approximately one tea spoon) per 100 gram of wool for a strong colour, so a tub of the powdered dye goes a long way. (Rachel recommended 1.5 – 2 gram of dye for medium colours, and 0.5 gram for pale colours).

Dyer's Picnic, Birmingham & District Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers

In order to make a four colour self-striping sock yarn, we each started with 100 grams of white sock yarn, wound into a skein approximately 6.4 metres long, and secured with figures of eight ties every 50cm. (Rachel advised that, when knitted up, this would equate to approximately 2 row stripes of each colour at 64 stitch rows on 2mm needles).

While our skeins were soaking in a bowl of water, we prepared four dyes in separate containers (plastic cups in our case). As only 5 gram of dye is required per 100 gram of wool, we only needed one quarter that amount per dye colour (which equated to approximately one quarter of a teaspoon). One full teaspoon of white vinegar was added to each dye (it’s best to err on the side of too much rather than too little with the acid), and the cups were topped up with enough water to cover the wool.

Dyer's Picnic, Birmingham & District Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers

Once the skeins were thoroughly wet, they were squeezed dry, and then divided equally between the four containers. With such a long skein it’s easy to mess this bit up, so it’s worth taking care to ensure that you have the colours in your preferred order and don’t splash the dye. You also need to make sure that you don’t end up with a white section of yarn at the ‘joins’ between the four colours.

Dyer's Picnic, Birmingham & District Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers

The skeins were left to soak in the dye for ten minutes, after which we carefully removed one quarter at a time from it’s container and wrapped it individually in clingfilm. Once all four sections had been individually wrapped in clingfilm, a final layer was wrapped around the whole skein.

In order to fix the colour, the skeins then had to be heated. We did this by placing the clingfilm wrapped skeins in a steamer on the hob for thirty minutes. This heating can also be done in the microwave or oven, but there’s a much greater chance of burning your wool…

Dyer's Picnic, Birmingham & District Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers

Once removed from the steamer, I left my skein to cool overnight before rinsing it in cool water and then giving it a wash with some wool soak. I didn’t getting any colour running when I washed it – which confirmed that the dye had taken – although there was a very strong smell of vinegar!

Acid Dyed Sock Yarn

Acid Dyed Sock Yarn

Finally, I wound the yarn into a ball. It’s now waiting for me to choose a suitable pattern and knit it up.

Acid Dyed Sock Yarn

Some guild members used an alternative method to dye fleece for spinning. They prepared the dye in the same way, but then applied it to their fleece using syringes or paint brushes. The fleece was wrapped in clingfilm and steamed in the same way to fix the dye. When dyeing fleece you don’t need to worry about leaving white patches, as these will blend in and lighten the yarn once it’s spun.

Dyer's Picnic, Birmingham & District Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers

Dyer's Picnic, Birmingham & District Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers


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A Naturally Dyed Wardrobe: Dyer’s Picnic

Naturally Dyed Yarn

Last month, I became a member of my local guild of the Association of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers. The guild meet once a month, with the June meeting dedicated to a dyeing day at the home of Sarah, one of the guild members.

During the day we dyed yarn and fleece with both natural and acid dyes. This post contains the results of dyeing with nine different natural dyes, I’ll post separately about acid dyeing.

Dyer's Picnic, Birmingham & District Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers

Dyer's Picnic, Birmingham & District Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers

All of the protein (animal-based) fibres I took to the dyeing day were pre-mordanted a few days in advance, with alum and cream of tartar (I’ll post the recipe on the blog soon). I also took along some skeins of cotton yarn and British aran wool (not mordanted in advance) to use with the substantive dyes. Unfortunately, all of the cotton yarn I dyed faded substantially once washed. Given that the dyes were substantive (e.g. indigo) I was surprised at the extent the colour did fade, so wonder if it was to do with how the yarn had been treated during production? I did dye a couple of squares of unbleached cotton fabric (also not mordanted in advance) and they retained their colour much more successfully, which suggests it is related to the treatment of the yarn.

The exact yarns I used were (from left to right below):

♥ 100% cotton (Rowan handknit cotton) (unmordanted)

♥ 75% merino / 20% silk / 5% cashmere DK (Sublime)

♥ 100% wool DK (TOFT Alpaca, in Oatmeal)

♥ 100% merino wool chunky (Rowan Big Wool)

♥ 100% wool aran (Jarol) (unmordanted) not pictured

I got especially excellent results with the chunky merino wool, so would definitely recommend that for future dye projects.

Yarn for Dyeing

In addition to lots of dyeing, everyone that attended the dyeing day brought along something for a shared buffet lunch, so there was endless food, tea and coffee to sustain us.

The dyeing itself took place in Sarah’s garden on three separate camping stoves, and in an assortment of metal bowls which included pet bowls.

Dyer's Picnic, Birmingham & District Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers

Dyer's Picnic, Birmingham & District Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers

There were also some nice things to buy. I came home with a large pile of vintage knitting patterns and magazines, plus a small skien of yarn (below) hand dyed by Sarah Cage, whose home we were at for the dyeing day.

Hand dyed yarn by Sarah Cage

The nine natural dyes we tried are listed below, with photos of the colours I obtained.

Dyer’s Coreopsis 

Coreopsis typically produces a yellow dye, but we achieved a lovely yellow-brown.

With my yarns, the colour leaned towards yellow in the case of my chunky merino, and a dark brown with my merino, silk, and cashmere blend.

Dyer's Picnic, Birmingham & District Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers

Dyer's Picnic, Birmingham & District Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers

Yarn Naturally Dyed with Coreopsis

Yarn Naturally Dyed with Coreopsis

Yarn Naturally Dyed with Coreopsis

Yarn Naturally Dyed with Coreopsis

Yarn Naturally Dyed with Coreopsis

Walnut

Walnut is a substantive dye and produced a pale brown on my yarns. My aran wool (unmordanted) held it’s colour, but the cotton yarn faded once washed. I added a square of unbleached cotton fabric late, just before the pot was removed from the heat, so it didn’t get chance to take on much dye.

Dyer's Picnic, Birmingham & District Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers

Dyer's Picnic, Birmingham & District Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers

Yarn Naturally Dyed with Walnut

Yarn Naturally Dyed with Walnut

Brazilwood

We achieved a lovely range of pinks using Brazilwood, and paler pinks with Woodruff.

Dyer's Picnic, Birmingham & District Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers

Dyer's Picnic, Birmingham & District Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers

Yarn Naturally Dyed with Brazilwood

Yarn Naturally Dyed with Brazilwood

Woodruff

Woodruff (the roots are the section used for dye) was one of the plants we used for dyeing which was grown in Sarah’s garden, where the dyeing day was held. The plant was growing right alongside where we were stood.

Dyer's Picnic, Birmingham & District Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers

Dyer's Picnic, Birmingham & District Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers

Yarn Naturally Dyed with Woodruff

Privet

I was really impressed with the bright yellows we achieved with privet. The privet we used has just been trimmed off a hedge in Sarah’s garden, so we put the offcuts to good use.

Dyer's Picnic, Birmingham & District Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers

Yarn Naturally Dyed with Privet

Dyer's Picnic, Birmingham & District Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers

Yarn Naturally Dyed with Privet

Feverfew

We achieved a paler yellow with fresh feverfew.

Dyer's Picnic, Birmingham & District Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers

Yarn Naturally Dyed with Feverfew

Indigo

We achieved a pale blue using indigo extract, due to the volume of extract used and/or number of projects in the pot. My aran yarn (unmordanted) held it’s colour, unlike the cotton. The two aran yarns pictured below achieved slightly different shades of blue, as one spent slightly longer in the dye pot at a higher temperature.

Dyer's Picnic, Birmingham & District Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers

Yarn Naturally Dyed with Indigo

Yarn Naturally Dyed with Indigo

Lichen

Lichen produced a pale brown with my aran yarn (unmordanted), although the colour faded with my cotton yarn. There are ethical issues around using lichen for dyeing as they grow very slowly and may be protected species, so shouldn’t be foraged. However, the dryed lichen we were using had been in the possession of members of the guild for many years, and passed on to Sarah.

Dyer's Picnic, Birmingham & District Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers

Yarn Naturally Dyed with Lichen

Logwood

Perhaps my very favourite result was achieved with Logwood, which produced a range of purples with my wools and cotton. I was given the remaining logwood to bring home, so need to decide what I want to dye with it.

Dyer's Picnic, Birmingham & District Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers

Dyer's Picnic, Birmingham & District Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers

Yarn Naturally Dyed with Logwood

Yarn Naturally Dyed with Logwood

After getting home from the dyeing day, and before photographing my yarns, I left them overnight to fully dry. The next morning I rinsed each yarn in cool water to remove any excess dye, and then washed them in warm water and wool soak.

Naturally Dyed Yarn

The dyeing day was a great opportunity to try a range of natural dyes, in good company. If you’re interested in natural dyeing, spinning and/or weaving I’d recommend the association as a good way to learn from others and at very little cost (after the membership fee, it’s £2 each session to cover unlimited tea and cake). There are guilds across the UK, and I’m sure there are similar organisations worldwide.

My collection of small dyed yarn oddments is growing – I’m thinking a weaving, but it’s still in the plotting stage at the moment.

The photos below show the yarns drying in my garden after being washed, along with my acid dyed yarn which I’ll post about soon.

Naturally Dyed Yarn

Naturally Dyed Yarn


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Paprika (Patterns) Dyed Onyx Shirt

I couldn’t resist – I made Paprika Patterns’ new Onyx Shirt Pattern, and I dyed my shirt with Paprika.

Paprika Patterns Onyx Shirt, Double Gauze Dyed with Paprika

Lisa of Paprika Patterns put out a call for pattern reviewers and I was lucky enough to be selected. This is my first attempt at the pattern, in a cotton double gauze purchased online from Etsy shop Fabric Treasury. I’ve already purchased this Atelier Brunette cotton for version two. I used two vintage pearl buttons from a charity shop to secure my epaulets, and patterned bias binding from Guthrie & Ghani around the neckline.

Paprika Patterns Onyx Shirt, Double Gauze Dyed with Paprika

This is actually the second Paprika Patterns’ pattern I’ve tried. I previously purchased the Jade Skirt, but haven’t yet gotten around to blogging it. I find their patterns very professionally presented and produced. The website allows you to create an account so you can always access the latest version of each pattern (and versions are numbered / changes noted so it’s easy to identify what has changed; which appeals to me massively as a project manager!). The website also has a tutorial section, separate to the blog, which includes a couple of nice little photo tutorials to support making the Onyx Shirt. The printed pattern instructions refer to these tutorials so you can’t miss them. The pattern instructions themselves are very cleanly presented, with clear and easy to follow diagrams.

Paprika Patterns Onyx Shirt, Double Gauze Dyed with Paprika

Happily the pattern prints out in only 12-15 pages (depending on size selected), and a copy-shop version is also provided. Paprika Patterns split their pattern sheets into two files depending on your size, because they draft with two separate blocks for smaller and larger sizes. A one-page instruction sheet on choosing a size if you fall mid-range is included.

Paprika Patterns Onyx Shirt, Double Gauze Dyed with Paprika

I cut a straight size 2 based on my bust measurement. I actually fall between sizes, but was able to get away with the smaller size due to the boxy fit / ease in the pattern. I really like the fit and the shape of the pattern – especially the rolled cuffs and epaulets. The shoulders are supposed to be slightly dropped, but mine appear to be much more so than the product photos. I may make a modification to raise the sleeves next time, although I actually don’t mind the dropped look.

All in all, this is a sweet simple shirt that is quick to whip up, but with enough detail to keep things interesting. It’s totally my style and I’ll be making more.

Paprika Patterns Onyx Shirt, Double Gauze Dyed with Paprika

Although the finished colour of the fabric is quite subtle, you can see the difference compared with the undyed colour of the fabric below. This double gauze is lovely and soft, but creases like linen and frays a lot. Prior to dyeing it, I cut out all of the pattern pieces and tacked around all edges to prevent excessive fraying and keep the layers of the double gauze together, which worked a treat.

Natural Dyeing with Paprika

To dye my fabric, I dissolved a full jar of ground paprika from the supermarket (approx 46g) in a large stainless steel pot with enough water to cover the double gauze and some yarn I also wanted to dye. I heated them on a low heat for around an hour, and then left the fabric and yarn in the pan to cool for an additional couple of hours. One of the 100% wool yarns did felt slightly so I probably let the temperature get a little too hot, or agitated it a bit too much.

Natural Dyeing with Paprika

The yarns I dyed (previously shown in their undyed state) were (from left to right below):

♥ 100% wool DK (TOFT Alpaca, in Oatmeal)
♥ 100% merino wool chunky (Rowan Big Wool)
♥ 75% merino / 20% silk / 5% cashmere DK (Sublime)
♥ 100% cotton (Rowan handknit cotton)

You can see that the cotton yarn hardly took on any colour, but the three wools took the colour of the paprika to greater and lesser extents.

Natural Dyeing with Paprika

I dyed without mordanting, as I purchased the fabric prepared for dyeing. I’m aware that paprika is reported to fade easily, so will see if the colour does fade and if so will re-dye.

Natural Dyeing with Paprika

Natural Dyeing with Paprika


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A Naturally Dyed Wardrobe: Turmeric

Turmeric Dyed Yarns

I recently dyed a range of yarns, some cotton, and my recently completed knitted socks, with turmeric.

In preparation, I tied the loops of yarns in a number of places, and then soaked the yarn, fabric and socks in cold water so that they would take the dye better.

I made a paste with a full jar of ground turmeric from the supermarket (approx 45g), and placed this and my yarn and cotton in a large stainless steel pot with enough water to cover everything.

Turmeric dyeing in progress

I heated the pan on the hob on a low temperature for one hour. As I was more cautious about my socks I added these for the last 30 minutes only.

I did stir the pan occasionally to try and ensure the colour would be even, but didn’t stir excessively as I was wary about the wool items felting.

After an hour I turned off the heat, but left the items in the pan for another couple of hours, after which I rinsed the items with a mild wool wash, and left them to dry.

Turmeric Dyed Yarns

The yarns I started with were all white or off-white. The yarns used (shown from left to right below) were:

♥ 40% Polyester, 33% Acrylic, 27% Cotton, containing glitter and sequins (Sirdar Soukie DK, in Gold Dust)

♥ 100% cotton (Rowan handknit cotton)

♥ 75% merino / 20% silk / 5% cashmere DK (Sublime)

♥ 100% wool DK (TOFT Alpaca, in Oatmeal)

♥ 100% merino wool chunky (Rowan Big Wool)

Yarn prepared for dyeing

You can see the range of yellows I achieved below. The cotton fabric and yarn (on the left) are the lightest, the synthetic yarn (top) and merino/silk/cashmere blend (centre) are a medium shade, and the 100% wool yarns and socks achieved the darkest shades.

Turmeric Dyed Yarns

Turmeric is a substantive dye, so I dyed these without mordanting my yarn / fabric. However, turmeric is reported to fade easily, so if you’re dyeing something that you plan to wash, it would be best to mordant. I wasn’t concerned because I’m planning to use the yarn in a weaving, and if the colour of the socks fades I’ll redye them.

Turmeric Dyed Yarns

Turmeric Dyes Wool Socks

Turmeric Dyed Yarns

Turmeric Dyed Yarns


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A Naturally Dyed Wardrobe: Making a Start

#naturallydyedwardrobe Dye Garden

Me and Phil are currently on holiday in Copenhagen:) Before we left, I managed to make some progress on my #naturallydyedwardrobe.

The Bee Balm and Woad seeds that I ordered from Etsy arrived, and I’ve planted those along with the seeds I bought from a local garden centre (Bidens, Marigold, Yarrow, Teasel). They’re all planted in pots and placed inside my growhouse for protection. The weather is just starting to warm up here in the UK, so hopefully I should see some growth soon, and the beginnings of a dye plant garden.

I’ve bought a selection of yarns that I’m planning to dye in addition to dyeing fabric for dressmaking. I’m interested in seeing the different colours I achieve with cellulose (plant-based) and protein (animal-based) fibes. Phil bought be a (children’s) loom for Christmas and I’m excited to dye my own yarn and create a weaving that reflects the colours from my dye garden.

I’ve also ordered some Indigo extract from this Etsy shop in India. Indigo isn’t one of the plants I am attempting to grow and it’s going to be some time before my woad is ready (!) so I thought it would be fun to try an extract. The shop also stocks a range of natural fabrics described as perfect for dyeing, so I’ve ordered a couple of metres of fabric to dye.

Elsewhere

The latest episode of the Woolful podcast (which is always excellent) has a great interview with natural dyer Kristine Vejar.

Did you spot Portia’s brilliant tutorial for turmeric dyed ombre yarn?

There have been lots of good posts about naturally dyeing eggs for Easter. Here’s a good example from a few years ago.

I’m so impressed by this Solar Dyed Kimono by This is Moonlight; the One Year One Outfit challenge is also really inspiring.

Bee Balm Seeds

Woad Seeds

#naturallydyedwardrobe Dye Garden

#naturallydyedwardrobe Dye Garden

Wool for dyeing

TOFT Alpaca Open Day April 2015


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A Naturally Dyed Wardrobe: Gathering Dye Plants

As part of #naturallydyedwardrobe, I’ve been thinking about the plants I can gather to create natural dyes.

It’s obviously important when gathering plants that you aren’t having a detrimental effect on the environment you are harvesting in. Many dyers work with a 10 – 20% rule, only taking a maximum of 10 – 20% of the plant they are harvesting, and leaving 80 – 90% behind. It’s also important not to harvest in environments with a no-harvest rule.

I’m sticking to plants that are abundant, and so not problematic in terms of gathering.

Currently I’m thinking about…

Acorns

cupful of acorns

This Autumn, I really want to try dyeing with acorns. They produce lovely light browns, similar to dyeing with nuts. To produce a dye from acorns you need to first smash the acorns and soak them overnight. If iron is used as a post-mordant fibres dyed with acorns become grey-black.

Check out this post from Thicket and Thistle for acorn-dyeing inspiration.

Bramble / Blackberry

second handspun
Photo Source

Both the leaves and fruit of blackberry plants can be used for dyeing. The berries produce a purple, while the leaves and shoots produce a yellow – brown. The fruit can be used from frozen as well as fresh, but like most dyes produced from berries has a tendency to fade. Alternative wild berries are Elderberries (pinks/browns with wool and silk; silver-grey with cottons), Damson (pinks), Blueberries (red-greys).

Nettles

nettle
Photo Source

I certainly won’t have any trouble gathering some nettles, which produce yellow-green colours.

Dandelions

I must know fifty ways to make yarn yellow.
Photo Source

Likewise with dandelions, whose flowers produce golds and khakis.

Mushrooms

I don’t know enough about wild mushrooms to feel comfortable gathering them, but great effects can be achieved, as seen in this inspiring post by Folk Fibers.

Any other suggestions? Have you done any foraging for dye plants?


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A Naturally Dyed Wardrobe: Growing Dye Plants

As part of #naturallydyedwardrobe, I’ve been busy buying seeds.

Marigold Seeds
Marigold Seeds

We’re lucky to have a small garden where I can plant dye plants, but many would be suitable to grow in a pot on a balcony, or indoors.

I’ve ordered six different types of seed, I had to stop myself from buying any more at that point by reminding myself that I need to find room for all of these in the garden, and time to care for them…

Most leaves and flower heads will produce a dye, in a yellow, olive or brown. However, I’ve stuck to plants that are popular amongst dyers for (hopefully) more reliable results.

Ivy / Bracken (yellow-green)

In addition to the new plants I’m adding, I might also take advantage of two plants already growing in my garden.

Ivy is one of the plants whose leaves can produce green dye, although they also produce yellow-golds, and, with the addition of iron as an after-mordant, the dye can be closer to grey/black. My garden is full of ivy so I might as well put some to a good use.

We have tons of Bracken in our garden. It’s fronds produce a green dye, and I’ve read that they produce the best dye in the Spring, when the new fronds are unfolding.

Bidens (orange)
Bidens Seeds

I’ve picked Biden as it produces a strong orange, and can do so with a low plant-to-fiber ratio (1:1; 2:1 being more typical). It’s also quite a hardy little plant and easy to grow in the garden or a pot (the seeds I bought recommend it for hanging baskets).

Marigold (yellow – brown)
Step 6 - Finished Product
Photo source

All varieties of marigold produce dyes in shades of yellows and browns. They are another plant that is ideal for pots, and are also a good pollinator. Personally I try to stick to insect-friendly plants when adding to my garden, so that was also an important factor for me when I was selecting what to grow.

Yarrow (yellow – green)
Yarrow Seeds

Yarrow produces yellows and greens on wool, although it typically dyes a pale yellow on cellulose fibres (plant-based, e.g. cotton, linen, hemp). Yarrow is a perennial wildflower and attractive to insects, including butterflies.

Teasel (blue / yellow)
Teasel Seeds

My local garden centre had Teasel seeds so I decided to include it. Teasel is a thistle-like plant so a nice contrast from the other plants I’ve included. It’s also attractive to insects as a source of nectar and to seed-eating birds.  I’ve read online that dried teasel heads produce a blue dye, or yellow if used with alum as a mordant. I’ve also read that dried teasel heads were used for centuries as carding combs for wool.

Bee Balm (pink)

This blog post encouraged me to include Bee Balm in my dye garden. As a great lover of pink, I couldn’t resist a plant that produces a gorgeous pink dye. Bee balm also has the added benefit of attracting insects. It is a member of the mint family, and the wild variant (native to the US) has traditionally been used for medicinal purposes and as a seasoning.

Woad (blue)
Woad dyed, fine lace-weight yarn
Photo source

I couldn’t resist trying to grow woad as it is one of the important traditional dyes, and was the only source of blue dye for textiles in Medieval Europe. The leaves of woad contain the same dye as Indigo (Indigofera tinctoria), although in a weaker concentration which results in a powder blue dye. Woad has an important place in English history, Julius Caesar referred to Britons staining themselves with woad for battle, and Glastonbury’s name is said to derive from glastum or blue. Woad is a vat dye, which needs to be prepared in a different way to all the others I am planning to try; I couldn’t resist giving vat dyeing a try:)

In addition to growing my own little dye garden, I’m planning to take advantage of my mom’s well stocked garden. She has lots of plants suitable for dyeing, including Dahlias, Zinnia, and Raspberry and Tayberry fruit.

Do you have any other recommendations for good dye plants to grow, or plants you’ve had success with in the past?

This interview, with Katelyn Toth-Fejel from Permacouture, lists the following plants as a good starting point for developing a dye garden, and achieving a mixture of colours:

Woad for true blues
Madder for intense orange, scarlet and plum
Saint John’s wort for gold, maroon and green
Rhubarb for its fixative qualities
Sunflowers for deep olive greens
Hollyhocks for yellow, mahogany and reddish black
Purple loosestrife for gold, brown and black
Weld for strong clear yellow
Dyer’s coreopsis for deep yellows, oranges, browns and maroon
Lady’s bedstraw for orange, gold and pinky red

Also, check out this great blog post describing the seeds planted in a Brooklyn dye garden.

I bought most of my seeds from my local garden centre. I ordered woad and bee balm seeds from this Etsy shop, but haven’t yet received them so can’t yet comment on the quality.


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A Naturally Dyed Wardrobe: Store Cupboard Dyeing

As part of #naturallydyedwardrobe, I’ve been making plans for the year; what I’m planning to grow, gather and buy to create natural dyes.

I’m starting today with the ‘store cupboard’ items that I’m thinking about trying.

Some really impressive results can be obtained from easily obtainable food stuffs. They’re also easy to use, as many of the food stuffs are ‘substantive’ dyes which means that it isn’t necessary to prepare the fabric using a mordant (such as alum) to encourage the particles of dye to bond to the fibre (although it can help to create a stronger, longest lasting colour).

I’m particularly interested in trying the following:

Turmeric

TURMERIC: Natural dyes on silk, cotton and wool
Photo source

I want to try using powdered turmeric because it produces a really vivid yellow. Turmeric is a substantive dye, although using a mordant helps to prevent fading. Approximately 40g of turmeric powder is required per 100% of fabric. Fabrics dyed yellow with turmeric are often overdyed with blue dyes (woad, indigo) to produce strong greens, which can be difficult to achieve without overdyeing.

Red Cabbage

cabbage
Photo source

I’m excited to see what colours I can achieve with red cabbage. Other dyers report achieving purples with wool, rose/lavender with silk, and lilacs with some man made fabrics. The older outer leaves give the strongest colour, although the whole vegetable is chopped up and boiled to create the dye.

Tea / Coffee

COFFEE - Natural dyes on silk, cotton and wool
Photo source

I’m a (obsessive) tea drinker, but I’m keen to try dyeing with coffee. Lots of coffee shops give away bags of their left over coffee grounds for composting and I have a couple of bags in the shed that will be perfect.

Coffee produces a range of gold-browns, and reportedly works well with nylon.

Depending on the tea used, teas can produce a range of browns, greys, khakis and gingers, and work well with silk and nylon. Unsurprisingly, stronger teas produce stronger colours and I’ve seen other dyers reporting good effects from a strong Turkish tea. Portia blogged about using a bargain box of tea bags to dye a shirt only last week.

Others

That’s probably enough to keep me busy, but some of the other interesting options include:

Nut shells/husks

pecan :: silk
Photo source

The shells/husks of nuts – including walnut and pecan – produce brown/pink shades and can be reused (although the dye will get lighter with each use). Most nut shells are substantive dyes, although using a mordant will increase take up of colour. You’ll need to smash the shells and soak them overnight before using them to dye. Use approximately 200g of shells per 100g of fabric. Walnuts are a historic dye, used in recipes for hair dye, and to dye fibres used in the creation of tapestries.

Onion skins

Yarn dyed with onion skins
Photo source

Onion skins (the papery outer skin) produce a substantive dye; white onion skins produce yellow, orange and rust colours, while red onion skins produce greens. The more onion skins used the stronger the colour will be, but a minimum of 30% of the weight of fibre should be used for wool, and 50-60% for cotton.

Carrot tops (the leaf, not the vegetable itself) produce golds and greens with wool, although typically have minimal effect on other fibres.

A range of herbs produce effective dyes. Powdered saffron (as the strand form is likely to work out very expensive) will produce yellow and green shades; a 0.5g pack of powdered saffron should dye 50g of fibres. Paprika, cinnamon and curry powder are also reported to produce strong colours.

Phew, that’s plenty to get on with. I’ll be blogging my plans for growing and gathering sources of natural dyes next!


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A Naturally Dyed Wardrobe

#naturallydyedwardrobe Logo

Ok guys, I’ve been busy scheming and I’ve got some plans to share with you today that I’m really excited about.

Lately, I’m really excited about natural dyes. There is some really exciting stuff happening in the knitting community with natural dyes, but I’ve seen less amongst sewists. I think probably because wool takes natural dye more effectively than any other fibre, and also because it’s easier to handspin your own balls of wool/yarn (which then is likely to lead to you wanting to dye that wool) than it is to create fabric.

I’m certainly not going to start making my own fabric, but I am going to start personalising some of the fabric I buy by hand dyeing it.

What are natural dyes?

Natural dyes are dyes produced from organic matter, including flowers, leaves, fruit, vegetables, roots, bark, nuts and seed. Insects are also a common source of natural dye (e.g. cochineal) but won’t be explored by me.

Dyed fabrics dating back thousands of years have been found in Egypt, China, and India; the Romans left written records on the use of natural dyes, dyes still used today: madder, indigo, and weld.

Why natural dyes?

The reason I’m excited to work with natural dyes – as opposed to synthetics – is that there is a real unpredictability and uniqueness to the colours produced. Even if I’ve referred to a book or website in advance to check the colour a dye stuff will produce it will only be a guide, as everything from the condition the plant grew in, my treatment of it, and the fabric I use, will have an impact on the colour of dye produced.

I also love the fact that I will be growing or gathering the substance of some of my dyes, so they’ll be truly home made.

A Naturally Dyed Wardrobe

So, over the course of this year, I’m going to be blogging about my own progress with natural dyes.

It’s my intention to grow a number of sources of dye in my garden, to gather some locally (I’ll only be gathering weeds, so won’t be interfering with any wild plants), and to use a few easily accessible sources of dye that can be purchased from the supermarket.

I’ll be blogging my progress growing and gathering, and showing the results of my experiments using my home made dyes to dye fabrics (as well as the odd ball of wool/yarn), and finally I’ll be blogging some finished garments made with my hand dyed fabrics.

Participate

If you’re also excited to try natural dyeing I’d love it if you’d join me.

I’ll be blogging various practical tutorials over the course of the year and be signposting useful books and blogs.

There are no rules. Perhaps you’d like to give natural dyeing a try with an easily obtainable source of dye from the supermarket (such as onion skins), maybe you’d like to join me in introducing a new plant in your garden (or taking advantage of one that’s already there) and using that to create a dye, or maybe you’d like to find a good use for weeds (or an invasive plant like ivy) that you have easy access to.

If you are planning to join in, tell me your plans in a comment below and/or on your own blog. Join me in sharing your plans and progress using #naturallydyedwardrobe on social media or via email. I’ve made a little blog button if you’d like to shout about participating:)

I’ll be back soon with a post on my more detailed plans for the year. Lots of list making has been taking place here!

Blog button & code

“#naturallydyedwardrobe

“#naturallydyedwardrobe"