Pinks from Second Year Woad

Hello fellow plant dye enthusiasts! I’m here today to tell you about a use for your 2nd year woad leaves (other than waiting for seeds, chicken feed, or compost additive)!

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As we know, woad (Isatis tinctoria) is a rather plain looking plant from Europe that has a long history as a source for blue dye. Think Celts and medieval European tapestries. Only the first year leaves are a good source for blue (usually, unless one is extra lucky), but the plant is a very hardy biennial. (Too hardy sometimes – it is labelled as a pernicious weed in some Western US states). I have grown woad in my Minnesota (zone 4b) garden for the past 4 years, and it reliably overwinters despite cold snaps of -50F. In its second year the plant sends up a flower shoot that will burst into yellow blooms. I’ve heard that the flowers can give a yellow in the dye pot… but to be perfectly honest enough plants will make yellow; I’m after a beautiful, dusty rose type of pink.

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I like to harvest my second year plants before they flower – really anytime after they start growing again which seems to happen as soon as the snow melts. This is a good time to decide which plants get to stay to produce seed and which plants need to go. You really don’t want all of your plants going to seed or you will end up with “woad woes”, to quote Rita Buchanan, writer of the excellent A Dyer’s Garden

So on to the dyeing process itself! I fill up a big stainless steel dye pot with leaves – I take the whole plant from rosette to flower stalk, stuff it in the pot, give it a few snips with the kitchen shears, and fill with water. I don’t tend to weigh the dye stuff here, but as a guess it is about 3ish pounds of leaves per batch? This goes onto heat to simmering (I honestly don’t think a light boil would hurt anything, but I’m a baby and don’t like to boil my dyes) for about 1 hour. Let the leaves sit and steep until you get a nice rich sherry-colored liquid, usually an additional hour. In the meantime you can dig the roots of the harvested woad (I chuck ’em in the compost), and pre-soak your fiber.

 

And here is a cool part of pinks from woad; I have had fantastic success (both depth and longevity of color) on protein fibers WITHOUT mordant. Cotton not so much (needs more experimentation!) but really couldn’t be easier with wool and silk; just make sure it is well cleaned of course. I get reliably pink results using a ratio of about 3:1 fresh plant matter to fiber. Fortunately woad is a bulky, heavy plant so a little goes quite a long way.

 

After you have a nice looking color in the pot and you bath has cooled just a little, strain the leaves (also great for compost!) and add your fibers. Give the whole thing another simmer of about 1 hour and then (this is important) leave them to soak overnight!! In the morning do your typical rinse. I like to use my rain barrel water to cut down on water usage, and perform a final rinse with a wool wash like Eucalan. Spin or squeeze and hang up to dry! You are done!

 

A few random thoughts and notes.

  1. You may be thinking, wait! This is very similar to Jenny Dean’s process for pinks from first year woad leaves that have already had the blue extracted! You would be right – we are just using a previously underused dye potential in second year leaves!
  2. This is a really nice way to scratch the post-winter fresh leaf dye pot itch. It is a great and efficient way to get a double use out of a dye plant and your garden space.
  3. I have not specifically light-tested these fibers, but I do have several skeins that have been in and out of tubs for 3 years that still look great.
  4. Learn more about general woad cultivation HERE, or purchase seeds HERE! Looking for some beautiful pink woad-dyed yarn? Click HERE!
  5. A disclaimer – other than the woad seeds and yarn I do not profit from any links on this page 🙂

And there you have it! Beautiful dusty pinks from second year woad. Any questions? Have you tried this or want to try it? Drop a comment here or come visit me @knittyvet on Instagram or in my Etsy shop! While you are here feel free to check out some of my other dye and dye plant tutorials. Be well!

Like it? Tried it? Pin it!

Woad Pink
How to use second year woad leaves for a beautiful dusty rose pink!

 

Naturally 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.

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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!

One of the easiest natural dyes out there, marigolds give a bright, cheerful yellow on almost all fiber types!
One of the easiest natural dyes out there, marigolds give a bright, cheerful yellow on almost all fiber types!

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

Glorious Green (and Yellow) 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*! Want to try dyeing with dried blossoms? Click here!

(*You’ll get the best greens with fresh blossoms and superwash yarn… but very yummy yellows can be achieved with dried blossoms and non-superwash!)

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!

If you would like to try dyeing with some organically grown dried flowers click HERE!

Have you wanted to give natural dyeing a try? How about using Rudbeckia, a beautiful North American native flower.
Have you wanted to give natural dyeing a try? How about using Rudbeckia, a beautiful North American native flower.

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