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

 

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 #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. 😉