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!

 

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

"Sapphires" A new sock knitting pattern, or how I learned to stop worrying and love knitted sock design

Oh, I’m so excited! Seriously, big time, excited. Today I launched my first peer reviewed (ie test knit), big time sock pattern. It’s legit yo.

This sock pattern entered my brain when I found myself the owner of some lovely Cascade Heritage Paints in a gorgeous, glowing, blue sapphire color. (It had somehow made itself into my bag at a visit to Webs in Noho, MA… seemed to happen to me a lot). I knit up a pretty cool pattern called Brienne by Purrlescent, but I wanted more. I wanted… more sapphires. Sapphires…

I started looking through books, getting ideas and inspiration. I found what I wanted in a classic Barbara Walker Book of Knitting Patterns. Honestly. These books. My dear MIL gave me a set for Christmas one year, and I am forever in her debt.

The pattern was in a lozenge shape, and I thought that if hooked together correctly, maybe with some ribbing in between, I could make a sock.

So I knit a little test swatch on my favorite rose colored #2 DPNs (I am a knitting nerd do not judge me), found my gauge, did a little math to figure out how many I’d need to cast on, threw caution to the wind and started knitting.

The knitting was the easy part. I took notes as I went. I tried to be specific and organized. I am not that person at heart. In the end I had a lovely sock… and the notes from hell. This is when the real fun started. I looked at sock patterns on Ravelry. In books. I reached out to knitting communities on Facebook (thanks Knitting Heart Pattern Group!) Provided with some inspiration I made an outline and tackled the written form. Really not that hard, just extremely tedious. I don’t know about anyone else, but my eyes tend to glaze when reading knitting patterns unless I’m actually knitting. I talked myself through this section. So far so good.

However, the chart. I knew what they looked like, I knew how to knit from one… but how to CREATE a chart? So internetting I went. Now, I bet *real* knit designers have programs for this sort of thing, but I was improvising. My first time. Learning experience. I was lucky enough to stumble upon this really excellent tutorial and excel template from Color Yarns LLC that I could adapt to my needs. They rock.

So now I had a chart… but how in the world to make all the knitting notations? I sure didn’t see all those dots, y slashes etc etc on my QWERTY keyboard… Back to the internets! This time I found Knitter’s Symbols Fonts by David Xenakis. I was able to download the font, download the crazy looking key sheet, reformat my excel sheet (Font 14, Bold, Column Width 0.16″, Height 0.12″ in case you were wondering) and viola!!! I could begin filling in the chart with my pattern.

I did some figuring and re-figuring on how to explain some aspects of these socks… especially beginning and ending the ovals. It is fairly intuitive but a little tricky to put into words. Once I had a version I was more or less happy with, I tossed it to my plucky test knitters Sherry and Nissa. They knocked this thing out of the park confirming gauge, finding mistakes, and making sure the pattern made sense. Seriously. They are amazing.

The final hurdle? Getting the final .pdf file from 25.7 Mb to 747 Kb. It had to do with embedded image size and resolution. It was solved at midnight. Don’t even ask.

So here we are. Sock pattern number one. I hope to create more in the future – hey – I already know what column width and height to use! Please let me know what you think and if you have any comments or questions – I usually respond quickly! Thanks for the support and help oh internet peoples!

Ravelry Link: http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/sapphires
or

Etsy Link: https://www.etsy.com/listing/230836398

Enjoy!!

GIVEAWAY! Through 3/1/15 at noon CST

To thank all fans and customers I am hosting a little giveaway. The prize will be any cozy in the shop or a $10 gift card towards any other shop item. What would you pick?

Rules: 1. Head over to facebook and “Like” the KnittyVet Page: www.facebook.com/knittyvet
2. “Like” the contest post and comment with your favorite color.
3. I’ll pick the winner randomly from the comments 3/1/15 at noon CST.

No facebook account? No problem – just leave a comment here on the blog!

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