Natural Orange Dye – The Magic of Jewelweed

I’ve been taking advantage of the late summer/early fall surplus of lovely jewelweed, made easier to reach due to the low water levels this year. I’m happy to share this dye tutorial with you and look forward to hearing about your experiences!

HISTORY – Orange Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) is a native of North America and found near water at lake edges and in ditches and near creeks. The juice of the stem has been used to treat rashes and poison ivy, and has also been found to have antifungal properties. A similar plant is Yellow Jewelweed (Impatiens pallida) with yellow vs orange flowers, but critically this plant does NOT provide dye!

DYE PROCESS – Materials needed: Dye pot (aluminum, enamel or stainless steel, not used for food), plant material and mordanted yarn in about a 1:1 ratio.

This plant is a classic sort of plant that works best with alum mordanted yarn, so prepare your fiber using the usual methods. I have not yet tried this plant with cellulose fiber, but let me know if you have!

The dye is found in the stems and leaves, so to harvest simply pull the entire plant up and snap off the root area. It is a very easy plant to pull. Pro tips: 1. Wear gloves! This plant is safe to handle but it often grows in areas with poison ivy and stinging nettle. 2. Watch your footing! This plant is usually found in marshy areas. 3. Only take as much as you need, and be mindful of the natural environment. A rule of thumb is to take < 10% of the plants.

To prepare the plant you can chop into segments of a few inches… but to be honest I’ve been just cramming the whole folded up plants into my dye pots recently. Fill with water (I use the water from my rain barrels) and simmer at around 180F for about 1 hour. At this point you can strain out the dye material and put in your wetted yarn, or you can leave the plants to steep overnight.

After straining out the plant material add your yarn and bring back to a gentle simmer for about 1/2 hour, then leave the mixture to cool overnight.

Rinse your yarn, let dry somewhere out of direct sunlight and you are good to go!

A few thoughts on fastness: I will be honest that I have not extensively light and wash fastness trialed this dye. I do have a few pieces I have made that have kept their color well over a few years in normal light conditions. If you have more information I’d love to hear about it – drop a comment below or over on IG!

And there you go! Visit my Instagram @Knittyvet for videos of the process or to chat with me about the process. Please let me know your experiences and findings with this dye process!!! Together we can learn more 🙂 – Kendra

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