As summer fades to fall, things have been busy around the farm. We’ve been busy putting the garden to rest, and are now transitioning to crafts and hobbies. My hands gravitate toward wool as cooler weather becomes the norm; Ben spends more time woodworking.
Since acquiring the sheep and having fiber to play with, I’ve started to experiment with natural dyes. Most fiber (wool and cotton) is dyed using chemicals. This process creates fiber with deep and lasting colors but the complications that arise with disposal of the chemical medium and exposure to toxins in commercial dyes makes me a bit leery of using them.
Besides, there is something profoundly gratifying about collecting natural ingredients and using them to dye natural products! There are lots of books about gathering and using wild plants, mushrooms, and lichens to dye. Armed with a copy of “Wild Color” and a stainless steel pot, I harvested a few nettles and marigolds and gave it a go.
Using a good pair of leather gloves, I picked a good amount of stinging nettles to play with. Nettles yield colors that range from green to yellow. Using alum as a mordant, I dyed a bit of handspun and it came out a shade of brown.
I grow French and African marigolds as a part of my pest management program in the garden. Orange flowers were selected for the dye pot.
After a bit of hit and time, two skeins of yarn were transformed from white to shades of brown and yellow.
Dyeing fiber is a life-long craft. The color possibilities created using these ancient methods are endless. I see a lot more experimentation in my future…
- A Weaver’s Garden. Rita Buchanan. Interweave Press, 1987.
- A Dyer’s Manual Jill Goodwin. Pelham Books, 1982.
- Wild Color. Jenny Dean and Karen Casselman