One of the projects that the Small Human & I undertook over the summer was to dye yarn using plant materials collected around the home. We started with a skein of undyed yarn, rescued from a friend's deepest stash (thanks L), and collected flower heads and petals from around our home. Dandelions caused the most excitement; we had multiple helpers aged under 5 spotting & gathering dandelions on our nearby green area. (At the time, the kids' favourite game was to gather stones & leaves to make potions.) We froze the flowers as we went, & added to them over the summer.
Knit Picks undyed yarn
Raw Materials, clockwise from top left; dandelion heads, geranium petals, dianthus, onion peels
Once we had a substantial amount collected (and I realised the summer was almost over), we set about extracting dye. I set four jars into a large pan; the pan itself had some water, and each jar contained one plant material and some water. The whole shebang was simmered for an hour or two, and then cooled. The colour left on the cloth from straining out the vegetable matter seemed promising. 
Cooked vegetable matter mush
Extracted colour
I used alum & cream of tartar as a mordant. (one of the least toxic mordant options)
Mordanting; alum & cream of tartar
To avoid mixing all the dye colours, we dyed the yarn in two batches; one of orangey red shades, and another of yellowy green shades.
Geranium (in the jar) & onion skin dyeing
Our experiments included the following plants;
Pink Dianthus - turned to colourless mush in the freezer.
Yellow onion skins - gave the strongest colour of all. 
Marigold flower heads - gave a surprisingly greenish colour on the yarn
Dandelion heads - the extracted colour was so weak, I added some carrot leaves to the final dye bath. 
Pink geranium petals - gave a really lovely colour in water, but this did not transfer to the yarn; the finished yarn is a very subtle shade of not-quite natural. 
L-R: onion skin, marigold, dandelion & carrot leaves, geraniums
I enjoyed messing about with dye; the Small Human enjoyed the initial collecting leaves phase, but did not want to take part in any sorting etc. She was happy just to look in the boiling pots when the time came. I think she would have been more enthusiastic if we had managed to create something pink (in spite of my best efforts to encourage all the colours). I am already thinking of future dye possibilities; I wonder if the extracted dye could be used as paint?

To be continued....


Popular Posts