Natural dye adventures

Helenmember's projects6 Comments

I’ve been wanting to try my hand at natural dyeing for some time and last summer I finally put aside 2 weeks of sunshine to have some fun. Granted some of the dye pots were inside (like the madder) because I wanted finer temperature control than the open fire could give me, but most of the pots were done outside.
I’d ordered some of the dry stuffs from “Wildfibres” online to extend the possible range too.







I started, and kept up, a dye journal… quite an achievement for me in itself!

These are some of the colours I got using madder, indigo, onion skins, brazilwood, cherry bark, and logwood.  These were used with three mordants; Alum, Iron, and Bichrome of potash, plus an un-mordanted selection._1040332

It particularly worked well using cochineal as an overdye on some of the fibres to extend the colour range.



This is the finished piece that was created out of the wool I spun from the dyed fibre, keeping the stripping I wanted with a navajo 3 ply… the original fleece being a local cheviot hog.  I have to admit to not being a knitter here… my Mum was kind enough to produce the jumper for me.

A time consuming but very educational project.  This year I’m going to try some more things out of the garden instead of buying in ingredients (much to the amusement of some Ladies I know I bet, who witnessed rather dull results from my garden last year 😀 )


Helen Suzanne

6 Comments on “Natural dye adventures”

  1. What an amazing achievement! I’ve admired this sweater without knowing it was created from ‘scratch’. I have never dyed with brazilwood, or cochineal, but I have dyed with plants around me, so I’ll try to post a picture soon.

  2. Thanks Catherine!
    I would love to see what colours you came up with. My garden experiments were dismal to say the least, apart from coreopsis.

  3. Ha, Compared to the exotic natural dyes, the home-grown wild plants make a much more subtle palette. I wouldn’t call them ‘dull’ exactly. My experiments have not been well- documented, to put it mildly, and some were done a while ago. The purple-pinkish colour is elderberry, which is fugitive, but by accident, some ended up near the compost heap and turned green. It returned to pink in a basin of water with vinegar, or lemon-juice- very magical. The cherry bark, and willow bark colours weren’t mordanted at all. I can’t remember what the greyish dye is – it could be iris root, but most likely to be logwood gone a bit funny, which takes it out of the locality.

  4. I like the combination in the top pic. Yes subtle colours but it’s a lovely palette. My cherry bark and willow came out similarly. One I will try this year is nettle. I’ve seen the results from the “Soay Studio” over in Harris; a lovely soft sage green. I don’t think Margaret opens to the public anymore but she has/had an amazing natural dye garden and dyeing set up complete with cauldron and fire 😉

  5. The yellow palette is about to have a boost, with daffodils, gorse, and dandelions! I read that nettles give a different shade of green if picked before they flower, but I won’t be trying it this spring although the nettles are in plentiful supply. Having chased nettle roots for miles when weeding, I’m fascinated more by the fibre that can be made from them.

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