in which there is natural dyeing


Last year, I picked up a ton of natural dyeing materials at Maryland Sheep and Wool. I actually went both days, just to find woad. I’ve had the stuff for almost a year now and other than one very crap attempt at dyeing wool with indigo (no, it doesn’t work like acid dyes, thank you!) I just let it sit.

I’ve been bored, though.

This weekend, I played a little. I dyed some cashmere/ silk fingering weight with logwood, and some supersoft merino with madder. It’s like magic, taking these twigs and powders and coming out with colors! I feel like an alchemist.


The madder root was strange- it didn’t look like much of anything in the beginning. I smashed it up and soaked it in superhot water for 24 hours, then dumped the initial liquid, refilled the pot, and boiled the mixture for about 45 minutes. Then I strained the roots out and used the liquid as my dyebath. I left the wool perfectly still so the roving would come out variegated.


There are still little bits of woody root in the fiber, but that’ll spin out. I was going for a deeper red- I don’t know if there wasn’t enough mordant (I used alum) or if I didn’t use the right mordant. This looks a bit like meat to me, but I think I’ll like it. It is on the drying rack right now.

The logwood, though- that was a total success. I’m all knocked about about this. I took the logwood powder, soaked it in hot water for 24 hours, then dyed four skeins of pre- mordanted (more alum, a bit of soap) silk- cashmere yarn. This is the result.


Oh, that’s so like magic. The original powder was a reddish- brown color. How did it end up purple? I tried to keep the yarn as still as possible, to get some mild variegation- it looks like it has some mild color changes, but I can’t tell until I knit it up, I think. It’s not a true solid, that’s for sure- I’m really happy with this!

Later this week, I’m re- attempting the woad.

To celebrate, one of the skeins above is part of the Great Yarn Giveaway. It’s 400 yards of fingering weight 55% silk/ 45% cashmere yarn, one skein: leave a comment below and we’ll let the Random Number Generator make the choice. I’ll select the winner Thursday, 10 April 2008, at 1200 eastern time.

There is one catch: who ever wins this yarn needs to promise to send me a picture of whatever they make from this yarn! I need to see what happens to it. I have a Flickr group for things people have made from my handpainted fiber and yarn, and it makes me really happy- even if you’d just post it there, that would be awesome.

So- interested? Post a comment below, promising to send me a picture of what you make with this, and we’ll let the Random Number Generator do its work! Good luck, all.

What am I going to do with my three remaining skeins? I have no idea. A shawl, almost certainly. Something sweet and comforting to eat up the time in a plane. With the weather what it is- 48 degrees in Kabul, right now- I’ll have a few months to work at it before I’ll need it- which I will need, I think. Lace takes me forever. I haven’t selected a pattern yet, but I’m considering the Shetland Triangle, the Seraphim Shawl (although I think I’m going to do that in STR, one of the Raven Clan colors instead)… but more likely, I’ll just make up a wrap for myself.  I want to spend this year focusing on writing more of my own patterns, I think.

I’m loving the natural dyeing- that’s what I wanted to say. It’s more toxic than the acid dyes, so I need to be a lot more careful, but there’s a magic to it that doesn’t exist with the acid dyes- partly the newness, I think, and partly the playing with twigs and powders. I think Kiddo and I will go rotting around the backyard to see if there’s anything we can use there.

  One thought on “in which there is natural dyeing

  1. April 8, 2008 at 9:22 pm

    Loooove the color. I’ll definitely send you a pic πŸ™‚

  2. April 8, 2008 at 9:24 pm

    Wow, that is bizarre about the change in color with the Logwood! Looks amazing, though. Naturally, I’d love to get my hands on one, and if I did I do Promise, Promise, Promise to show you what I make with it. I think I might use it for the SKP2008 May socks if I won. They’d be my main project as of May 1st, and while the pattern is a suprise, they suggest a solid or semi-solid, so that would be perfect!
    You do such nice work. I am jealous. πŸ˜‰

  3. April 8, 2008 at 9:41 pm

    I totally want in on that blue/purple offer…it’s amazing!

  4. Crystal
    April 8, 2008 at 10:06 pm

    I would love a chance to win that gorgeous yarn! I promise to send a picture of my FO πŸ™‚

  5. April 8, 2008 at 10:37 pm

    The natural dyes are so cool! I’d love to be entered for the contest and send you a picture.

  6. April 8, 2008 at 11:15 pm

    So cool! As far as the failed indigo attempt goes you might want to check out a website/group called Henna For Hair, which covers a lot about using henna and indigo for dying hair. It might give you some ideas of how to use it for your yarn. πŸ™‚

  7. Tiffany
    April 9, 2008 at 1:56 am

    Fantastic results from natural dyeing! I attended a natural dye day a few years ago and not a single person came out with results as gorgeous as yours! I would be afraid to win something so wonderful, I don’t think I could bring myself to commit to a pattern, for fear of not living up to the yarn’s potential. Great work!!

  8. nicole
    April 9, 2008 at 6:41 am

    I have seen people tie up the dye “material” into a silk cloth, apparently you end up with just as strong a dyebath minus the debris πŸ˜‰
    I love how both your dye experiments have come out, totally awesome. But I love dyeing experiments anyway.

  9. April 9, 2008 at 11:28 am

    Wow that purple is AMAZING!

  10. ummeyusuf
    April 10, 2008 at 5:23 pm

    that’s a lovely purple color.

  11. Tara
    April 10, 2008 at 6:13 pm

    That is amazingly beautiful color! πŸ™‚

  12. Laura
    April 19, 2008 at 10:49 pm

    ooo yarny goodness πŸ™‚
    I totally promise a photo!

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