Natural Dyeing on Holiday

It’s been pretty quiet here in the past couple of weeks, and you’re about to see just how busy I’ve been of late.

Apart from a quick experiment with acid dyes, which didn’t require any mordanting, I’ve hardly dyed any of my yarns. But the lack of solid colour rovings at Unravel a few weeks back strengthened my resolve to try some more dyeing of my own, and natural dyeing was high on my list.

I am currently visiting my parents in France and Eddie came along to visit a country she had yet to set foot in. My parents live in the countryside and there is a vast garden which my mother populates with a good variety of plants. So, although spring has only just started and there aren’t yet many flowers out, we have quite a range of plants we could use. We therefore decided to try and experiment with a  few of the things we found, as well as with the natural dye pack which I bought at Unravel.

So far, so much fun...

First up we mordanted some of the yarn. We had some alum, which we used the most.  We forgot to pack Cream of Tartar in our bags and unfortunately, it does not seem to be as readily available in France. So we decided to go without. But we have also decided to try a natural source of alum and use Heuchera roots to mordant some of our sample skeins, so we could compare how the two different types of mordants fare.

We’re limited in time but here are some of the things that we have done and some that we will try dyeing with: Blackbeans (strong blues to grey), red and yellow onion skins (greeny browns and oranges), young birch leaves (green hopefully), Ivy leaves (green), my dye pack stuff: Logwood (purples and blues), Brazilwood (reds) and Fustic chips (yellows), some Chamomile and Golden Rod (both yellows) and some Madder root (reds). Some of the other things which are abundantly available and that we could try but I’m not so sure if we’ll manage to are ivy berries, nettles, oak sawdust (for tannin mordanting), sumac flowers… I might try to see if some of these can be preserved for a future visit to my parents…

Our first dyed skeins should be dry tomorrow and I will report here on everything we attempted, the good, the bad and the ugly, because that is the whole point of experimenting and blogging about it, so others might also learn from our mistakes…

How about you? Have you done any natural dyeing? I’d love to hear about any successes or mishaps you want to share…


6 responses to “Natural Dyeing on Holiday

  • Katie Osweiler

    I haven’t done natural dyes yet but you know how I love that Kool-Aid! I still have a pack of natural dyes I bought at the American Museum in Britain a few years ago but I just might need to holiday in France to get some dying done. Ha ha!!

    Sounds like you ladies had a great time!! Miss you!


    • Cecile

      Yey, come over, I’ll set up a dye camp… Or I might have to come over to the States to get you going with it! So many plants making cool colors seem to grow in North America and not in Europe… Not fair.
      We miss you too, but as you see, the spinning bug you passed onto me is alive and well…

  • ilana H

    How exciting ! I’m only a beginner and experimented with cochineel beetles and log wood bark , mordanted with alum and cream of tartar. I’ve recently bought a mushroom dyeing book as I’m a keen mushroom forager..
    eager to see the dried dyed yarn and learn !

    • Cecile

      I remember your logwood dyed skein and it looked gorgeous! For us so far, Logwood has been the one big disappointment, yielding only black, greys and very dark browns… But we got some gorgeous blue and purple from our black beans… You’ll see soon, I’m waiting for things to dry properly to photograph them.
      Might have to take a peak at your mushroom dyeing book at some point, the New Forest has a solid mushroom potential, we should gather a hunt party!

  • Kate A

    I’ve been saving up onion skins for months but haven’t got round to actually dyeing anything yet! Several hanks of handspun Poll Dorset awaiting up-sprucing.
    My temp contract has just ended so I should have more time for this sort of thing. Can’t wait to see your results in the flesh – let me know when you’re around.

    • Cecile

      We got some vibrant colours from the onion skins: yellows to oranges in the yellow skins and green to brown in the red onion skins, I’ll do a full post as soon as everything is dry, it was definitely easy and fun!

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