Up to this point, my dyeing yarn or fiber has been spontaneous rather than planned. I have a 3-quart slow cooker and a few utensils that I keep just for the job. The roving above was dyed this summer in two batches, each batch with 2 colors of Kool-aid. I deliberately didn’t mix the Kool-aid much and crowded a lot of roving into the pot. The result? Multi-colored roving that’s uneven . . . in a way that looks like it’ll be fun to spin.
I recently decided to try natural dyeing. Harvesting Color by Rebecca Burgess is the book that got me started. I think Ms. Burgess got me with the cover of her beautiful book: look at how the flowers are arranged in the same shape as that sweet skein. Within a week of reading her book, I’d ordered two more natural dyeing books and had my 2012 dye garden all planned in my head.
About two weeks ago, as I was throwing fallen leaves on the garden for mulch, I noticed that the marigolds I’d planted among the asparagus had escaped the early frosts. The flowers were not only intact, but big and colorful and healthy-looking. I collected the blossoms and weighed them on my kitchen scale (note to self: get a better scale for dyeing). There were about 3 ounces of marigold flowers, so I took 3 ounces of undyed handspun wool yarn out of my stash.
At this point, I scrounged up a notebook and decided to keep records of my dyeing experiments. Here’s the short version of how I turned those skeins light green:
1.) Soaked marigold blossoms in cold crockpot about 2/3 full of tap water. Got busy with other things for about 4 days.
2.) Took crockpot with stinky dye liquid out to deck and cooked it on high for 3 hours. Cooled overnight in garage.
3.) While marigold liquid in progress, mordanted yarn with alum. Dissolved 0.3 ounces alum in boiling water and added tap water to make 6 cups (enough to cover the 2 skeins). Soaked yarn overnight (the same overnight as in number 2, above).
4.) Drained mordant off yarn and gently squeezed to remove excess liquid. Scooped marigolds out of dye liquid.
5.) Put yarn in dyepot and cooked on high for 2 hours. Left in crockpot to cool overnight. Next day, rinsed and hung to dry!
Since green is my favorite color, I couldn’t be more happy with my first adventure in natural dyeing. It was easier than I thought, especially since I was able to work on it in short segments and keep it from crowding my kitchen. I’m definitely planting more marigolds in 2012, along with hollyhocks, zinnias, and maybe coreopsis.