Getting back into the swing of things.


I have to admit that I let things get away from me for a short time.  Actually nearly a year!  My dye stuff has been collecting nothing but dust, and it is ready to be put to work!  My dye garden has really come to life this summer, although I kind of forgot that several of the plants I put in are actually used only in root form.  It’s kind of a bummer only because I will have to pull out all of these beautiful plants in the fall!  However, I did have a surprising re-seeding of gypsywort, which is supposed to give a dark brown to black color.  I have yet to see actual results, so I guess once the plants are ready, we will all find out!  I also figured out that the amaranthus that I planted last year needed an extra ingredient in order to achieve the red color-it is from Hopi Red Dye seeds.  The plants themselves are really very beautiful.  Pictures will be coming soon!


Update #2 on Dyegarden Measurements



Gypsywort 4.5” 5.75” 7.75
Indigo,   False 9.75” 9.75 12

Dyer’s   Knotweed 8.75” 9.5 9.5

Dyer’s   Broom 10.75”   7
Indigofera 2.5” 2.25” .5

Baptista   Australis 3” 3.5” 4



Amaranthus   Hopi Red Dye #1 3.5” 7 15
#2 1.5” 5 7.5
#3 2.75” 7.75 10.5
Woodruff 1.5” 2.75 4.5


Safflower   #1 8.5” 13 17
#2 7.5” 15 20
#3 9” 15 22


Update One:

As you can see, there was a boom in the growth of most of the plants, especially the Amaranthus.  This is in part to the large amount of rain we received this week and the warmth.  I think that the weather was perfect for most of the plants, and maybe not so perfect for at least one-the indigofera.  From what I have read, indigofera tinctoria can be difficult to grow, especially if you do not have the correct growing conditions.  The leaves of the indigo also look as if they have been gnawed on by bugs.  Well, I guess it’s live and let live.  I’m not going to spray chemicals just to get rid of bugs.   Bugs have to eat too!

Update Two:

It’s been two weeks since the last measurement.  There has been some significant growth in some plants, but in the one that I was most excited to see, it was shrunk by some little critter eating it to the ground.  I wasn’t very thrilled to come home after being up north for five days to find that the indigofera had been nibbled to the dirt.  However, after a few days of watering and heat, a few strong leaves returned.

There are a few plants in bloom in the garden including marigolds, hollyhock and coreopsis.   I think the most difficult part of this process is understanding that this is the first year of the garden and that the garden needs time to develop.  The garden needs time to allow for the plants to really establish roots.

Too Much To Put Into A Title

Too Much To Put Into A Title

That’s right.  I am going to write about too much to put into one, nice clean, pretty title that would make sense to everyone including the dog.  Instead, I will babble on for a few lines about nothing and then get to the point.  Let’s skip that and get right to it.

So, I have yet to have experimented with mordanting wool yarn with copper.  I have done wool fabric, but not yarn.  Not only that, but I have not used copper as a mordant and then went on to dye it with one of my natural dyes.  I was actually quite impressed with the color after the yarn was mordanted.  It is a pretty blue, not sure what color to call it exactly.  But I definately liked it enough to leave some of the yarn out of the dyeing process.  I decided to look up colors on just to get a name for this color and what I came up with is Green Ridge D25-3.  When you look at this yarn and you have seen corroded copper before, you will see the color I am trying to get at.  Sometimes monitors don’t do the pictures justice.

Next, I used Annato seeds (also known as Achiote, Bixa orellena) I bought at the local grocery store.  I was going to plant annato, but then after doing a little digging, I found that the dye is actually in the seed, not the plant.  Well, I suppose the dye is in the plant too, but I spent a little over a dollar to experiment with Annato seeds.  The yarn that I have dyed thus far has run a fairly simple color scheme of yellows, yellow green, light purples and tans.  I haven’t really gotten anything truly vibrant from natural dyeing, but that will all change.  I put all of the Annato seeds into one leg of a pair of nylons.  (As a side note, do people still buy pantyhose, and if so, what is the difference?  I don’t know that I have ever worn pantyhose before.  Although maybe I have and just didn’t realize it).  I tied a not around the open end and threw it into the dye pot along with alum mordant yarn and half of the yarn I dyed previously with irises.  At first, I though I was going to end up with yellow.  Boo hoo on my patience.  I stirred the pot, I shook the seeds a little to give them room to jiggle, and then let the pot sit for about 45 minutes.  I returned   to find two fabulous brilliant shades of orange.

My one problem with the Annato seeds is that the dye did not cover completely, but then again, it gives the yarn a little character.  Returning again to, I found my orange colors to be compatible with Sun Safari C3-2, Crayola Under Construction DK34, and Flaming Torch C2-1.  Sun Safari came after I dyed the first two skeins of yarn.  I also tie dyed the Sun Safari yarn for no other reason then I wanted to see how it would turn out.

Last week, I had to cut back some Black Eyed Susans because they were invading the peony we have in one of our plantings.  Black Eyed Susans are a little like weeds.  They spread like nobody’s business, but I couldn’t really replant all of them, so I cut the leaves off and used them to dye with.  From what I read, I should have ended up with a granny smith apple green, but I ended up with a more army green/khaki/tan color.  From again, the color is called Moss Landing D10-4.  I used part of the copper mordanted yarn to dye with as well and ended up with a dark olive color, Aubusson Vine D17-2.  This one too I tie dyed.  It looks so cool with the dark khaki green mixed with the sea foam green.  Love it!

And lastly, I used some old blueberries.  I simmered the blueberries until there was a gooey mess in the pot, added some water and simmer for a little longer.  I strained off the blueberries and threw some alum mordanted yarn into the pot.  I have done blueberries before and the result is always pretty much the same.  A nice light purple comes out with a bunch of tiny little black seeds stuck all over it.  Don’t worry thought, once the yarn is again in a pretty little ball or skein of yarn, most, if not all of the seeds are gone.  I also used a bit of copper yarn.  While the yarn was in the pot, the yarn turned dark dark grey, nearly black.  I haven’t yet made black and am hoping to this fall with gypsywort.  After rinsing the dye out, the yarn ended up being olive green, much like the color you would see on old army tents.

Here are all the colors I created using natural dyes and a copper mordant.  Pretty exciting, right?  Well, maybe exciting is too strong of a word.  Maybe the word I should use is _____________You fill in the blank.

Update on Dyeplant Measurements



Gypsywort 4.5” 5.75”
Indigo,   False 9.75” 9.75
Dyer’s   Knotweed 8.75” 9.5
Dyer’s   Broom 10.75”  10.75
Indigofera 2.5” 2.25”
Baptista   Australis 3” 3.5”
Amaranthus   Hopi Red Dye #1 3.5” 7
#2 1.5” 5
#3 2.75” 7.75
Woodruff 1.5” 2.75
Safflower   #1 8.5” 13
#2 7.5” 15
#3 9” 15


As you can see, there was a boom in the growth of most of the plants, especially the Amaranthus.  This is in part to the large amount of rain we received this week and the warmth.  I think that the weather was perfect for most of the plants, and maybe not so perfect for at least one-the indigofera.  From what I have read, indigofera tinctoria can be difficult to grow, especially if you do not have the correct growing conditions.  The leaves of the indigo also look as if they have been gnawed on by bugs.  Well, I guess it’s live and let live.  I’m not going to spray chemicals just to get rid of bugs.   Bugs have to eat too!

Measuring the Progress of Plants


On Saturday, I went into the garden fairly early.  It was going to be hot and humid (imagine that Minnesota!) and I wanted to make sure all of my plants were in the ground and watered before the mini heat wave came.  Then another bright idea came to me.  I would measure the growth of some of my dye plants to see their growth weekly.  Plus, seeing their growth would allow me to understand how these plants grow, the rate at which they grow, etc.

These are my first measuresments taken on Saturday, June 9th.  The next measurements will be on Saturday, June 16th.  Plants with an * by them were planted by seed.

Anyway, on with the show:

Gypsywort 4.5”
Indigo,   False 9.75”
Dyer’s   Knotweed 8.75”
Dyer’s   Broom 10.75”
Indigofera 2.5”
Baptista   Australis 3”
Amaranthus   Hopi Red Dye #1* 3.5”
#2* 1.5”
#3* 2.75”
Woodruff* 1.5”
Safflower   #1* 8.5”
#2* 7.5”
#3* 9”

Experiments in Dyeing


So, I have good intentions of sharing my dyeing outcomes.  Instead, life sometimes gets in the way.

 Anyway, I have used several things to create dye including silver maple (Acer saccharum) seeds (aka helicopters), daffodils (which I have already posted on), irises, and amaranthus (amaranthus cruentus) seedlings. 

 Normally, I will write down what I think will happen.  Normally, the outcome is vastly different, although sometimes I am pretty good at guessing.  Daffodils don’t count since I have already used them in the dyeing process.

 The silver maple seeds were taken from a tree that my husband Mitch cut down at my parents house a month ago.  The seeds were just starting to come out, many were reddish in color, but most were a brilliant green.  I put the seeds in a dye pot, soaked overnight and simmered for 45 minutes.  I allowed the pot to cool and then strained off the dye liquid.  Using alum mordanted yarn, I simmered the dye again, allowed to cool and then took the yarn out.  I rinsed the yarn until the water ran clear.  The result was a minty brownish green.

I think that I may have over-heated the seeds.  I am not sure what color I should have expected, but I think the brownish color is a result from allowing the dye liquid to get too hot.



 My mom gave me several irises when we moved into our house.  This is the first year that I have actually had any real blooms, or anything you could call success with them.  Every plant I have had flowers on it this year.

 As the flowers wilted, I plucked them off and set them aside, careful not to get them wet.  Again, I know what happened with the daffodils, and I did not want to go through that stink again!

 I poured enough water to cover and brought to a slow simmer.  This takes a little bit of time and patience, which is something I have learned.  I can’t just turn the heat up to high and have the liquid come to a quick boil and then allow it to cool, that damages the plants and gives you a different color then you would get had you allowed the liquid to come to a slow simmer.  I guessed the flowers would produce a brown color (primarily because I wasn’t all that hopeful in achieving purple and I hadn’t found any information on using purple irises to achieve a natural dye anywhere).

 Since I started this project on the Friday prior to Memorial Day weekend, I poured the cooled liquid into a glass canning jar and allowed to cool over the weekend.  When I poured the liquid in, it was a khaki color.  After allowing to cool, the liquid was a pale purple.  I wish I would have taken pictures of the initial color, but I was trying to get 3 kids ready to go for the weekend, plus clean the house.  It just wasn’t on my priority list.

 Here is a picture of the dye liquid prior to pouring it into the dye pot.  It is such a lovely grayish purple color, I was really hoping that I would end up with this color on the yarn.  After going through the dye process, I thought I would end up with this color on a lighter scale.


After rinsing the dye out of the yarn, I ended up with a color completely unexpected.  It is a green, but it is a soft sort of fairy green.  I don’t know how else to describe it.  You can tell that I used some kind of plant that had blue in it, but the hint is so subtle that from a distance, and even on the computer, it is difficult to tell.



Amaranthus “Hopi Red Dye” Seedlings


(and yes, I actually took this picture)


One job I hate doing is clipping seedlings in order to allow the bigger and stronger plants to thrive.  I would rather let nature take its course, but in my experience, this just doesn’t work for me.  Anyway, I have also found that I shouldn’t toss everything out, but try to find a use for it (when it comes to making natural dyes).  I had roughly a handful of amaranthus seedlings.  I poured 3 cups of cold water into the dye pot.  Initially, the water turned the same brilliant red as the plant.  I was kind of excited.  I know that this plant is suppose to produce a red dye, except it is is the flowers and/or the seeds that do the trick, not the plant itself.


After bringing to a slow simmer (man, I am going to have to think of another way to say that!), the water began turning a true yellow green.  It was the coolest color.  I thought it would be great if the yarn ended up turning that color!  After allowing the dye to simmer for 20 minutes, I poured off the dye-stuff, and let the dye cool.  I put the yarn into the glass jar I had the dye in.  Again, I wish that I had taken pictures of the progression of this, and I didn’t.  Maybe I will just have to try to use this plant again!


After allowing the dye to sit for several hours, the color of the dye went from this brilliant green-yellow to what you see below.


Again, I was thrilled!  A pink.  I love it!  Everything I have been making seems to have made a green, yellow or brown.  Sometimes I think this is due to my own doing and I am sure that the plant might make a different color if I try to slow down the process just a bit.


After roughly 24 hours of sitting in the dye, I took the yarn out to see this wonderful pink I was going to end up with.  What I could do with pink, right?


Wrong again.  I took a picture of what the yarn looks like with half of it rinsed, and the other half not rinsed.  Pretty amazing.  I really am going to have to take an organic chemistry class just to satiate my interest.  I don’t know how it all works, but I would love to know how!


The end result of this yarn, was the yellow you see on the right.  I still think that it is a beautiful color, I was really excited for pink though.


My next experiments are on strawberries, peonies, false indigo and hickory.  These posts will come sometime in the future.  Hopefully sooner then later!


Until next time…







Daffodils Spring Forth Yellow

Daffodils Spring Forth Yellow

On a recent trip to my parents home, my husband cut down a few trees, trimmed a few trees, and I was the beneficiary of plant material that I will use in my dyeing experiments!

One tree that was cut down was a silver maple.  The tree had just burst with seeds, those fun little helicopters that have entranced children for ages.  (Okay, I am also amazed by them and could watch them fall from the sky for hours).  I grabbed handfuls of the seed bunches and piled them into my paper grocery bag.

I also collected daffodils that had been smashed by falling tree limbs and branches.  There weren’t too many, but I was able to gather a few more the following weekend when the daffodils were at the end of their bloom time.  My first batch of flowers had been soaking for a week, and I simply added the new flowers in.  I didn’t add anymore water because I had added too much the first time.  I brought the dye batch to a slow simmer and allowed it to simmer for 35 minutes.  I don’t really know how I came up with 35 minutes, but it is all an experiment with me!

Instead of throwing out the mushy leftovers from the daffodil dye bath, I decided to use the vase full of dyeing daffodils (did I mention my mom has a plethora of daffodils in her yards?).  I plucked off the flower heads and added them to the dye pot as well.  I have to admit that the mushy daffodils looked a little like cat vomit, but at least it didn’t smell like it!  I added cold water to the dye pot and will bring it to a slow simmer for 30 minutes (experimenting once again!).

As much as I would love to report the colors I achieved on wool, I cannot.  My next experiment is going to be in using roving to dye and then spin the yarn.  Did I mention that I have never spun wool before?  I am teaching myself with a drop spindle.  I might just end up taking a class at Silver Creek Cabin, a yarn store in Buffalo, MN.

My next post will hopefully contain some results from the helicopters and daffodils.  Cross your fingers as I am crossing mine!

A Quick Update


Remember what it was like when you were waiting for Christmas to come?  Or your birthday?  I can remember counting down the days.  Biding my time trying to figure out what the big day would hold.  What kind of cake would my mom make?  (After all that is the most important).

I feel a little like that right now.  I want to count down the days until the garden will be in full bloom.  The problem with that is, no one can predict the future.  I can’t say that by July 14th, there will be a raised garden bed full of flowers waiting for me to throw them in water and simmer them until I can drain the dye from their petals.

But I am just SO very excited!!!!  The three boxes are built and filled with lovely dirt bought from Mill Pond.  I actually had to wait to get the garden soil from Mill Pond because they hadn’t mixed the garden blend for this year yet.  I think the guy I spoke to on the phone could tell I was getting anxious!

I have four trays of seedlings that are sprouting like the little champions they were all meant to be.  I even have gypsywort and indigo sprouting.  Not that these plants are difficult to grow, but I am worried that I am going to bank all of my hopes on dyes from my own seedlings.

Well, I am not going to.  I have a little insurance at hand.  I ordered a few plants from Companion Plants in Ohio.  I couldn’t resist.  They have potted plants that will ship in mid-May.  I can cross my fingers that if my seedlings fail, at least the plants I get from Companion Plants will survive.

The hardest part of this  journey is the fact that Minnesota has had to endure some beautiful weather over the past month and a half.  It’s been really hard to keep myself from going out and planting a few things.  I think it’s been hard for several people from going out to plant a few things.  Luckily I have restrained myself.  I have another month to wait, let my beauties indoors develop and grow into strong vibrant plants.

Wish me luck!  Cross your fingers and all that jazz.  I guess it’s best to leave it in God’s hands.  He knows what’s best after all.

All Boxed In

All Boxed In

Have I mentioned that my husband is amazing?  Not only has he taught all of us so much about the world around us, but he was willing to give up his day off to help me build my garden boxes.  In all reality, if he wouldn’t have helped me, I would have ended up with boards strewn across the lawn.  Our yard would have been a HUGE mess!  There are reasons that I really enjoy dyeing, rug hooking and doing punch needle–it is done without instruction and ends up with differing results.

Anyway, we went to work last Friday buying pressure treated lumber from Menards.  We actually fit it all in the Pacifica.  (While we were loading the lumber, I just had to mention how I have always wanted a truck).  We brought everything back and went to work.  We were cutting sod, digging up masses of clay, several sand bar willow roots (doing a silent cheer) and quite a few worms.

Here stands our lone obstacle in creating our boxes, an evergreen tree we got from the Minnesota State Fair two years ago!


This is our first completed box!!!  I can’t wait to fill it up with some soil!  And then it will be time to fill ‘er up with flowers and other plants!!!!  Hopefully my excitement for this project will be part of the food that nourishes all of these plants and flowers!






We were onto the final two boxes.  Mitch, (my wonderful hubby) and I were concerned about cutting into the roots of the Pin Oak.  I really didn’t want my project to kill the oak tree, especially since the Pin Oak is Mitch’s favorite tree in the backyard.



I convinced Mitch to stop for the night and have some  pizza.  We could finish tomorrow!



And that we did.  Well, he did most of the work as I am just not adept at these sort of things.  I often believe that I can do things by myself without help, but this was one project there is NO WAY I was going to be able to do on my own.

Here they are!  Our completed projects all level and squared!  Now, I have to wait until I can have some garden soil delivered from Mill Pond(I found out this morning that day will be Wednesday).  Then I can fill up the boxes with some soil.  I cannot wait to see the results!!!!

Let the Games Begin!

Let the Games Begin!

Today is the start of something beautiful.  I am going to start planting my seeds with the help of my wonderful assistants, Emily, Jason and Lanie.  We’ll see how long they help out, but they sound really excited to help!  I have decided to do a few experiments while creating my dye garden.  I am using two different seed starting mediums, made by two different companiesMiracleGro and Schultz, both bought at Menards.  I am also going to try out peat pots in different sizes as well as more traditional plastic black pots.  I think it will be interesting to see if the more expensive MiracleGro helps seeds have a better start then the less expensive Schultz seed starter.  It will also be interesting to see how the plants do with peat pots as opposed to plastic pots.  How much can I actually control all of the variables that go into this?  This isn’t a serious experiment, but more of a casual interpretation of how I used variety to obtain different results.

One of my first purchases with my Kickstarter project was seeds from the Woolery.  I purchased gipsywort (black), henna (red), dyer’s woodruff, indigo (blue), safflower/false saffron (red to yellow), amaranthe (red), bugloss/alkanet (red), lady’s bedstraw (red).   I bought the rest of my seeds from Menards.  Many of these I have researched on various sites and in books about natural dyeing, but some will be experiments.  We’ll see what colors they make and if they are a dye that will stick.  My list of seeds include carrots kaleidoscope mix, true lavender, red giant mustard, spearmint, common sage, rosemary, detroit dark beet, purple coneflower, foxglove, hollyhock, butterfly weed, scabiosa, zinnia, sunflower, sweet pea and envy zinnia.  The seeds all come from Burpee, bought from Menards.

I will be including an update after my helpers come inside from our gorgeous Minnesota, March 18th weather at 70 degree plus!