Act Natural

I decided I wanted to give natural dyeing another go, ’cause my dad went through all the trouble of growing Hopi sunflowers this summer. Plus, natural dyeing just seems like some ancient, elusive magic that I definitely want to say I practice.

My first foray didn’t go so well, but I’m chalking it up to an inflated sense of adventure and a lack of education. I had a nice, white batt of sheep’s wool that I used to practice my long-draw spinning. Obviously, not the most consistent or balanced yarn, but it’s still yarn. I wanted to do something with it, and I didn’t want it to be white.

My German-ancestry upbringing means I have stained many a shirt with Rotkohl (cooked red cabbage), so I threw the yarn in a pot with some cabbage and some alum, and that was all she wrote.

Blue, cabbage-dyed yarn

It did have a pretty blue color, but that faded (because I guess cabbage pigments don’t stick to fabric, which I wish I had known when I was scrubbing out Rotkohl!).

Anyway, since that was a bust, I wanted to do another experiment before I started breaking down the year’s sunflower harvest. Another dye plant that is plentiful in my parents’ back yard is ivy, so I decided to give that a go.

Dye pot full of ivy leaves and yarn

The good news was, because of the first dye experiment, the yarn was already mordanted with the alum (mordants are metals or compounds you use in trace amounts to help the dye pigments adhere to the fibers). So, I just boiled down a bunch of ivy leaves, threw the yarn in, and here’s what I got:

wet yarn fresh out of the dye bath

It looked a little yellow straight out of the dye pot. I think I either needed more ivy or more heat (my stove is super temperamental, and I err on the side of underdone rather than burned wool). However, after it dried (and in some natural light), the blue came out and it is this lovely, pastel, lime green.

Ivy-dyed yarn

While it isn’t perfect, it was more experience, and I feel ready to tackle the precious sunflower seeds!

5 thoughts on “Act Natural

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