Natural Dyeing Yarn with Marigolds

Marigold Natural Dye Kit
Kits to dye yarn with organic dried marigolds.

If you are 100% new to the art of natural dyeing… or if you need a dye that will give you great color every single time, marigolds are the dyestuff you want. They are plentiful, forgiving, work just about as well dried as fresh, and give an amazing mustard yellow.

You probably recognize marigolds as the cheerful annuals available in the spring and early summer from every single garden store. There are several different types known by different names; African, French, Mexican and so forth, but as long as you are in the genus Tagetes you are good to go.  They are super easy to grow, and I like to plant them along borders, or even mixed in my veggie garden!

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So enough about growing, how do we dye? The dye procedure is similar to many flower-based extraction dyes, and I use alum mordanted yarn (don’t want to make your own? Click here for the kit!). Unlike other dye processes, once you have all your materials ready you can have a yellow skein of yarn in about 45 minutes. All of the following directions can be used for either fresh or dry blossoms. Use about 1/3 to 1/2 the weight of your yarn or fabric if using dried blossoms (purchase some here!) and about an equal amount of fresh blossoms to weight of fiber.

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Simmer flowers for about half an hour to extract a lovely deep gold color, then strain off the liquid. I like to compost the spent flowers!

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The wetted yarn or fiber is then simmered in the dye for 15 to 30 minutes. A longer simmer may produce a deeper color but it may be more dull. Keep the heat low – somewhere between steaming water and a simmer. You will notice that the dye bath becomes more clear (it won’t clear all the way though!) and the yarn will have a lovely gold tone when lifted from the bath.

I always allow my skeins of yarn to cool, then rinse in rainwater with a final rinse with a Eucalan soap or similar before hanging the skein to dry.

As with all natural dyes, different shades are achieved with different yarn types or modifiers such as iron dips. All naturally dyed yarn is also best stored out of the sun to retain its most vibrant color.

Interested in trying the process? Purchase organic dried marigolds! Want a complete kit including detailed directions and 50gm of mordanted worsted yarn? Click here!

Did you try dyeing with marigolds? Do you have some tips for me? I’d love to hear from you below, or come join me at www.knittyvet.etsy.com or the Facebook Group bit.ly/GardenYarn or at the KnittyVet Instagram to chat!

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Knitting Pattern: Garden Stroll Socks

Hey knitters – what about spring socks in fresh, lightweight yarn. Sound good to you? Free pattern sound even better??

Free sock knitting pattern.
Garden Stroll socks by KnittyVet in hand dyed botanical Marigold Sock Yarn.

Here is just such a pattern that I whipped up specifically for my sock weight Garden Yarn. Full disclusure: I’ve made 3 pairs of these anklets and I’m not going to stop anytime soon. So what are you waiting for? Grab your yarn and needles and cast on!

Garden Yarn colorways - Walnut, Marigold, Coneflower
Naturally dyed sock yarn with walnut, marigold, and coneflower

You can find the pattern on Ravelry, and several colors of yarn are still available for now.

Share your works in progress or happy feet wearing your new socks by using #GardenYarn or tagging me @knittyvet on Instagram! I’ll give you a shout out. 🙂

Free Easy Sock Knitting Pattern from Knittyvet.com

Natural Dye: Berry Pinks

Ok, I know I’m a little late for Valentine’s Day, but I just stumbled into the most glorious pink dye (or perhaps stain – more on that later) using some past-their-prime berries. Below is the long version – scroll down for the quick and dirty! Or find a recipe for natural yellow dye HERE.

 

I had about 6 oz of cranberries (a few were getting mushy, they may have been left over from the holidays, this is a judgement free zone) and about the same amount of frozen raspberries. From 2015. As the label proclaims. ANYWAY. I dumped these fine specimens into my stainless steel dye pot (different pots for dyes and food always, even when the dye was previously known as food) with a little water, and simmered for about 45 minutes, or until the berries had lost their shape and the water was a beautiful cherry red. Some mashing with a potato masher helped this process along. Next step was straining the ruby liquid into a separate bowel, then returning it to the pot. Careful, this is hot stuff! (Or you could wait until it cools. Your choice.)

IMG_0130So, at this point I added my pre-soaked (warm water with just a drop of dish soap) fiber. I didn’t put in a lot since this was really just an experiment not a serious dyeing sesh. I had a little hank of alum mordanted single ply wool, a snippet of superwash fingering merino (both non and alum mordanted), and 1/2 oz of non-mordanted BFL top. They all went in with enough extra hot water to cover, then were heated to just under a simmer for 30 minutes.

 

Oh yeah, I also put in some tired bamboo needles. I’m impulsive like that.

Once off heat, everything sat in the dye solution overnight before rinsing the next morning and hanging to dry. I am super pleased to report that the color came out a gorgeous plummy pink.

Wool naturally dyed with cranberries and raspberries
From top to bottom: Cranberry dyed bamboo needles, BFL top (no mordant), SW merino/nylon sock yarn (no mordant), worsted weight wool (alum mordant)

Alas, now it is time for REAL TALK. Berry dyes are famously fugitive – that means they tend to fade pretty quickly. So I don’t know if this lovely pink will last… or be a beautiful but brief shade. I’ll get back to you in the future with that, but for now I’m pretty happy. I plan on spinning a little of the BFL fiber and share that here as well.

What do you think about this DIY process? Pretty easy, right? Will you try it? Any questions? Ask below!

And the “quick” recipe for Berry Pink dye on Wool:

Ingredients: 6oz each of cranberries and raspberries, 1/2 that amount of wool (can scale up).

Process: Lightly simmer berries 45 min, mashing to combine. Strain out solids. Add wool and heat to just below simmer 30 min, then off heat and rest overnight. Drain, rinse and dry!

See my other blog posts about natural dyes – (Coneflower dyeing, Eco Printed Shirt, Creeping Charlie, Rhubarb, Marigold), or join me at the Facebook Group bit.ly/GardenYarn or at the KnittyVet Instagram for more! I also have finished naturally dyed yarns available at www.knittyvet.etsy.com

Wool naturally dyed with cranberries and raspberries

 

Glorious Green from Rudbeckia

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Hello all! While we are waiting for the KnittyVet Etsy shop to reopen on Tuesday Sept. 12 with the new yarn update, I thought I’d share my process for dyeing with Rudbeckia. Call them Black Eyed Susans, Coneflowers, Gloriosa Daisies, or whatever, many folks have asked me if these pretty yellow or orange flowers really make green yarn. The answer is yes, absolutely!

These flowers are a great native prairie species that bloom from mid to late summer and self seed if the flower heads are left to mature. My bed of Rudbeckia showed up after I planted some prairie flower mix… and I’m so glad they did.

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The dye procedure is similar to many flower-based extraction dyes, and I use alum mordanted yarn. It is a several day process though to extract maximum color!

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First I gather a good bucketful of blossoms and dump them in a dye pot. Next I pour over boiling water and let that sit overnight. The next day I boil for 1 or 2 hours, then let sit some more… either a few more hours or even overnight again. At this point we have a dark red/brown liquid that can be poured off from the spent blossoms.

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The wetted yarn or fiber is then simmered in the dye for 1 hour. I always allow my skeins to sit overnight to pick up the most color.

Different shades are acheived with different yarn types or modifiers such as copper or iron dips. I’ll have a few skeins for sale such as the one on the right above come Tuesday! Come join me at www.knittyvet.etsy.com or the Facebook Group bit.ly/GardenYarn or at the KnittyVet Instagram for more!

Garden Yarn by KnittyVet – Naturally hand-dyed skeins launching soon!

Hey all! I hope you’ve been having a stellar season – here in the Northern Hemisphere I’ve been making the most of a beautiful summer and dyeing lots of yarn with the plants and flowers from my garden. I’ve been sharing my progress online and due to popular demand have decided to offer a limited number of hand dyed skeins for sale! I’m still building up some inventory (everything comes from my garden or is locally foraged, so this takes a while!), but my naturally dyed yarns will be hitting the KnittyVet Etsy store soon. There will mostly be sock/shawl fingering weight yarns to start out, but I’m hoping to expand into other yarn weights and types.

 

For now – head over to the new Garden Yarn Facebook Group or join me on Instagram to stay in the loop. Once these yarns are available they won’t last long and each will be one of a kind! Those two group will be getting first dibs on all available colors.

Thanks for joining me in this creative journey. I really feel like I’ve found my niche!

-Kendra

garden yarn pinterest

Flower Eco Printed Cotton Shirt

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For the 4th of July this year we decided to start a little project with some of the fresh flowers in our yard and a cotton t-shirt. I had previously prepared the shirt by following the directions for mordanting cotton with alum outlined in Wild Colors by Jenny Dean. Despite some excitement over the sumac tannin solution turning blue, that went well enough, and I’ll blog about that process at some other point.

We started with our prepared shirt, pre-soaked in cool water. Next came a garden raid, picking flowers and leaves. What all did we pick? Yellow prairie coneflower, roses, yarrow, strawberry leaves, hardy geranium leaves, calendula, yellow cosmos, zinnia, jewelweed, geranium blooms, mint, and bee balm oh MY!

I had read that you should cover about 50% of the space with dye materials but, well, we got carried away. The next step was tightly rolling the shirt and plants onto a stick, then tying in place. We used an un-treated cotton string.

We popped the shirt-on-a-stick into the steamer for about 2 hours.

July eco print shirt wrappedThen came the hardest part – waiting while everything dried and set. We made it about 2 days before we couldn’t stand it anymore and unrolled the shirt. The flowers had mostly faded, imparting amazing colors and patterns onto our cotton. We waited just a little more for the whole thing to dry completely, then held our breath and rinsed in cool water. There was less color leakage than I’d expected, and the patterns were still fantastic. We were amazed by the wide range of colors from our mix of flowers, especially some dots of blue. I’m still not sure what gave that fantastic blue. I think some of the iris stayed blue?? Anyhow, E loves her shirt, and proudly exclaims that she made it herself to anyone who asks. Three more cotton shirts… we can’t wait!July eco print shirt front

Have you used flowers to contact dye a shirt? How did it go? Any tips or tricks? Share below!

Dye Project #3: Creeping Charlie (part 1/2)

Some folks may have strong feelings about this plant. You’ve been warned.

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Creeping charlie (Glechoma hederacea) is a fast spreading perennial ground cover in the mint family. According to Wikipedia it is also know poetically as”ground ivy”, “alehoof”, or “run-away-robin”. As anyone who has experienced its growth in their own yard, that last name is particularly apt. I try to have an easygoing relationship with plants in my yard but this one has tested me a little. I try to work with them or utilize them in some way as opposed to scorched earth tactics. Ours is the yard blooming with dandelions and violets… but hey, we can play in it, pick it, and feed it to the chickens and guinea pig without fear. I’ll take that trade.

In the case of creeping charlie, it now grows as sort of a green mulch in between my garden beds. We’ve come to an understanding of sorts. I whack it down now and then with the weed whip and correct it when it (inevitably) starts to creep INTO the raised beds, but otherwise we coexist quite peacefully. I also have decided it smells nice and minty, but milage may vary on this.

I was looking around in the first days of spring for something to try in the dyepot. Creeping charlie gets an early start… basically before the snow even melts. I’d read that mint does some decent dyeing, and then I came across Lil Fish Studios and her blog about dyeing with the plant! Good enough for me.

I picked a little over 2 ounces of greens leaves and stems – either flowering or just about to flower. I used a stainless steel pot to simmer covered in water for 1/2 hour, then let sit for about 5 hours. The most lovely green developed in the pot and I was cautiously optimistic.

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I had an old 2 oz skein of Contempo Wool Bulky (Textile Garage Sale find – whooo!) that I’d previously mordanted (but not rinsed) with 10% alum and 5% cream of tartar. That went into the dye pot, simmered (about 175 F) for 1/2 hour, then rested about 6 before IMG_7957removing. I got a nice, light yellow-green, which I of course failed to catch on camera out of the dye bath before rushing on to modifiers.

I stuck one little snip in a baking soda/dye mixture (turned into a light yellow), and draped the rest of the skein into a separate dye bath I’d poured off and combined with a few splashes of iron water. Fifteen minutes later the yarn had turned a lovely olive green. Less of a gradient showed up than I was expecting, but it still looked really nice.

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A collection of some of my dyed samples so far – rhubarb on the top and G. hereacea on the bottom. On the left is a lightfast test that will go on a windowsill.

I really love the way this skein turned out, and now I’m having THOUGHTS about what to do next with this super abundant dye source. I want to try some different types of wool, let some be without modifying, and maybe try some painted roving. Stay tuned for this post!!

Let me know below if you are battling creeping charlie in your yard. Maybe divert some to the dye pot for a more positive experience! Share your results with me – I’d love to see.

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Dye journal page for creeping charlie

Dye Project #2: Rhubarb Leaves (plus Rhubarb Crisp recipe!)

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Massive rhubarb leaves. 1lb ball of wool for comparison.

As any Midwesterner worth their salt knows, rhubarb is the true sign of spring. Specifically a pie, crisp, or other culinary delight. My family has been blessed by the rhubarb gods – our plants are prolific, massive, and darn near impossible to kill. They may or may not have even emigrated to Utah (shhhh).

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Be afraid.

In the reading I’ve been doing recently about natural and plant based dyeing, rhubarb has come up more than once. I’ve read the roots offer orange colors while the leaves can be used as a mordant (seriously, gotta do that nomenclature post), and maybe some green/yellow color? I already knew what to do with the stems.

So. Since we had some company visiting I had to be a little sneaky with my dye obsession. I decided to make a rhubarb crisp (scroll down for my favorite recipe!)… and just happened to toss some leaves into the dye pot. Roots would wait for another day!

IMG_7941I ended up with 13 oz of rhubarb leaves completely effortlessly since they are massive. Remember that the leaves are poisonous if eaten due to their high oxalic acid content (nephrotoxic to people, dogs, etc), so usually these guys end up in the compost bin. Today my leaves got roughly chopped and tossed in the dedicated aluminum dye pot (don’t cook and dye in the same pots kids). I low simmered them for 1/2 hour down in the dye lab while I made crisp* in the kitchen (recipe at the end of the post).

It was a busy day and I didn’t get back to my leaves until the next morning. By that timeIMG_7945 they were a gloppy, gooey, fragrant mess and the water had taken on a golden glow. Because I am never patient enough, I hadn’t yet prepared a whole bunch of fiber. What I had scoured were 2 ounces of Romney/Blackface blend I’d purchased a pound of from eBay… purely for experimenting with in the dye pot and on the wheel. I’d spun 1 ounce into a 2 ply and the other oz was roving. In went the damp wool, simmered low for 30 minutes, then cooled about 4 hours and out.

I also used a 1/2 tsp of baking soda in about 1.5C of dye water to modify a wisp of roving.

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Left: Undyed roving, Top: Rhubarb yarn, Middle: Rhubarb Roving, Right: Baking Soa Dip

I have to say, the results were… underwhelming. Kind of a murky, dull yellow. And the fiber felt harsh and was well on its way to felting – maybe due to the rhubarb leaves, but more likely due to my beginner’s technique. Too much swishing.**

I may try rhubarb leaves again – more as a mordant/pre-dye before working with other dyes. I bet it would look stellar overdyed with indigo! In the meantime I think I’ll stick to alum.


*My Rhubarb Crisp Recipe:

Crust and Topping:
1 1/4 C oatmeal
1 C brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 C flour (I use whole wheat)
2/3 C soft butter

Mix these 5 ingredients together until crumbly. Press 1/2 mixture into
9x13" pan

Mix in bowl and add to pan:
4-5 C rhubarb chopped into 1" pieces
1 1/4 C sugar
1/3 C water
2 Tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp vanilla

Press remaining 1/2 of topping over the filling.

Bake at 350 F for 1 hours or until golden and bubbling in the middle.

Best with ice cream!

**As an aside – several dye books I’ve read say to rotate your goods every 10 minutes in the dye bath. What??? How?? All I would have left would be dryer balls! Speaking of that, I know my next 2 steps: 1. Make dryer balls. 2. Buy some superwash wool!

pinterest rhubarb leaf post

Dye Project #1: Red Onion Skins on Wool

After my recent natural dye apostrophe epiphany as described in this post, I couldn’t wait to get started. Specialized equipment? Nah. Mordants? What are those? I have some cream colored yarn that will surely take up some dye. LET’S GET GOING!

Ahem. Friend google helped me find the perfect first project. A food-safe, kitchen worthy, substantive – meaning no mordant needed (that word again!), easy peasy dye source I already had in the house. Yep, onion skins were the clear winner, as Suzie from It’s a Stitch Up clearly spells out in this excellent tutorial.

IMG_7984My onions from last summer are getting a little long in the tooth, but that doesn’t matter a bit for this project. I scrounged through the bin and found a decent amount of red onion peels. I think these were the Red Wing variety if memory (and the Territorial Seeds website) serves.

I ended up with about 0.3 oz… Not that much but in onion skins I’ve read a little can go a long way… and being super impatient to get started I didn’t feel like waiting around. I grabbed some fibers to dye and stuck them in cool water to soak. In order in the photo: IMG_7885

  1. Cream Paton’s Classic Wool (0.2 oz)
  2. White Angora Roving (0.1 oz)
  3. Natural Country Roving from Briggs and Little(0.8 oz)

I figured this would be enough to get me started… a ratio of about 1:4 onion skins to yarn.

While the yarn soaked I tossed the onion skins in an aluminum pot (I had already decided that this was going to be a dye pot, and I figured the aluminum wouldn’t hurt in this case – might even improve the take of the dye), covered with 5 C of our suburban tap water, and simmered for 1/2 hour.

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Just look at that glorious color creeping up the sides of the dye pot! Off heat, 1/2 hour to cool, then the onion skins were strained out and in went the yarn.

I kept it at not quite a simmer – maybe too low? I didn’t use a thermometer during this adventure (I will in the future). Anyhow the yarn got warm in the dye bath for 1/2, then off heat for 1 hour. I kept gazing at the pretty yarn in the bath because I am weird like that.

Finally I pulled out my fiber, rinsed in tepid water, salad spun (that salad spinner is now my dyeing secret weapon) and hung up the fiber to dry. I got the most amazing golden yellow color – I really couldn’t tell you if it was the aluminum pot, cool temps, or low skin to fiber ratio, but whatever it was I’ll take it!

red onion skins aluminum pot

The angora did not take up as much dye as the wool. From what I read it should be a decent fiber for dye, but perhaps I didn’t soak this sample long enough? Once I get that angora rabbit I’ve been yearning for I’ll be able to experiment some more. Wink wink.

The two loops of yarn on the bottom were dyed in afterbaths… Ah, I have so much to learn!

So as a first natural dye project onion skins were pretty much ideal – easy to acquire, no extensive prep of the fiber needed, and food-safe to boot. I’ll keep you posted on the color fastness of these fibers as they get used in various projects.

I’m planning a post with some dyeing terms and definitions – when I first started reading about natural dyes it was a little like learning a second language… or being in vet school! I also need to write an update about our chickie girls – they are growing so fast.

Let me know what you think about this post – any idea why I got gold and not beige or brown (like I’ve read about for red onion skins)? Have you tried dyeing with onion skins, or do you want to try? Tell me about it in the comments!


Reading: I’ve been haunting a few blogs related to natural dying and all things fiber, and I have to say that I greatly enjoy Fran Rushworth’s excellent and highly readable blog Wool – Tribulations of Hand Spinning and Herbal Dying. I love her creative ideas and fiber creations as well as her offbeat sense of humor (daffodil dye! flower printing! a sassy talking stuffed sheep named Elinor!). Check it out for some real inspiration and entertainment.

I think I want to Dye (Fiber. Naturally.)…

I would describe my recent obsession as starting with an epiphany, but that wouldn’t be quite correct. It more snuck up behind me, tapping my shoulder and peeking around doors and corners (especially as I learned to spin from some fabulous hand-dyed roving) until one day I smacked my forehead and wondered why I had never thought such an obvious thought before.

If you click about on this website you’ll see that I love gardening, cooking/baking/preserving, and playing with fiber – all colors of fiber. I actually can’t believe it took me 36 years to realize I need to start using plant dyes to create colorful new wools! It is hard to explain exactly how excited I am to embark on this journey – one which apparently rewards dabblers and experimenters (hey, that’s me!).

Once my “oh, duh!” moment arrived, I couldn’t wait to get started. What was easy, could be done safely in vessels I use for cooking, and used materials I had on hand? Google helped me find the website of It’s a Stitch Up and the next moment found me scrounging in the onion bin.  Stay tuned for the results from my very first foray into natural dyes!

A few inspirational books I’ve been looking through:

 

Mostly I’ve learned from these books that there are certain guidelines and rules of thumb for natural dyes… but that really you can play and experiment and go pretty wild. Love it!


I’ve decided to add a new little section to the end of my posts – a listening/watching/reading segment to share some of the things I have found entertaining.

Watching: The husband and I just finished the final episode in Season 2 of The Expanse. If you wonder where all the good sci fi went, get yourself on over to this show and prepare to have your socks blown off. It airs on Sy Fy (I know, I know), but we streamed from Amazon… This show is so good I don’t knit or spin while I’m watching. And if THAT isn’t high praise, I don’t know what is!! (Also I now have a minor obsession with the source material book series by James S.A. Corey (follow on Twitter for a good time!),  but that is a different post).

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P.S. “doors and corners” from the second sentence in this post is an “Expanse” reference. See what I did there? Never stop nerding. 😉