Experiments in Plant Dyeing




I am one of the photographers here at KnitPicks and since I
have started working here I have been verrrry slowly learning how to knit. When
I heard about the dye along I thought great! an excuse to not only pick up my
needles again but I can try out a new craft, dyeing. I have only tie-dyed so I really
had no idea what I was doing. After a couple of talks with the girls around
here and reading through the very helpful book Natural Dyeing I decided to try
my hand at some plant dyeing. My goal was to use only plants/flowers that I
gathered from around my house but the loooong rainy May we have been having
nixed that idea.

I did manage to find some very soaked peonies and some other
random purpuly/blue flower growing on the side of the highway and then filled in
the missing colors with some spinach and carrots from the produce mart. With a
quick stop at the local Goodwill for some dyeing pots so I wouldn’t poison
myself if any of the plants I picked were dangerous I was off and running. 

I cut up my carrots, shredded the spinach and flowers (after
spinning them in my salad spinner to get rid of all the water) into pots and
set them on the stove to boil. I had started off with the good intentions of
weighing and measuring out my dye stuff, all the reading I had done said to use
an equal weight of dye stuff to the yarn. Once I got going on the first pot of
carrots I realized that was not going to work out and just started throwing in
the plants and then adding enough water to cover them and give them room to
move around. 

I also came to the conclusion in my head that I would need way
more then the recommended amount of plants for the 100grams of yarn that I had
and just needed to wing it. Once those were done I strained them out and set
the colors aside. I ended up with a lot of really bright pink from the peonies,
green from the spinach, a small amount of orange from the carrots, and a dark
purple from the other flowers. Since I didn’t end up with enough of the orange
to dye anything I decided to mix it in with the green and just use them

While those were cooling I went ahead and started preparing
my sock blank. I had gotten a lot of conflicting info on whether or not I
should boil the yarn with the mordant or just let it soak and what the best one to use would be.
Since I was trying to use all stuff that I had on hand or could find at the
local grocery store I decided to go with vinegar for the mordant.

I decided to
boil the blanks with the vinegar so I put them on the stove and cooked them for
about a half an hour then turned the water off and left them to soak over night
in the solution. My husband was so not impressed with the way the vinegar made
our house smell even though I had every window in the place open.
Between the smell from the cooking dyes and the vinegar our house got really
stinky and it took a day for it to air out.

The next night was the test to see how successfully the dyes
would work on the blanks. I put them back in pots on the stove, one pink and
one green. I decided to wait on the dark purple and see if I wanted to use it
as an accent once the main color was done. I wrapped up sections of my blank
with some hair ties I had in the house and threw them into the dye pots where I
cooked them for about an hour. Now here is where I made a rookie mistake. The
hair bands I used were black (can you see where this is going?) and in the
cooking of the blank process the dye from the bands left black marks all over
my sock blank and made the dye color darker. I should have known better I did
watch Bridget Jones’s diary where she used blue string to tie up her vegetables
and it ended up turning her pot of soup blue…oh well lesson learned use only
non-colored bands when dyeing next time. After about an hour I turned the pots
off and left them to cool for an hour or so to see if I could get some more
saturated colors since they were very light. Then came the test to see if the
color would stay and amazingly enough it did! When I washed them out there was
almost no dye in the water. I ended up with pretty light pink and greenish
blanks with some white circular shapes and black marks from my band.

I decided not to use the dark purple dye on these ones, I was afraid it would just color over the two lighter shades. All in all
I think it was a very fun time and I like the results that I ended up with. Now
to figure out what to make with them…