Category Archives: plant to dye with

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.


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”

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!

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!

Jerome Grant-The Big Reveal


Well, much like getting acceptance or rejection letters from colleges, the smaller the envelope, the smaller the chance of exceptance.  Thus was the case with the Jerome Textile Grant I had applied for.  I am not all that upset about not being picked because I think I have a lot of growing to do as an artist before I can really compete with other artists in the fiber arts field.  I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into, and I think I have acknowledged that on more than one occasion.  I have seen through books that I have so much to learn.  I have so much room to grow and develop my skills that I can always return to applying for the grant next year.

Was I pinning all of my hopes on this grant?  Not really.  I think I figured out a few weeks ago that I really couldn’t put myself in contention because of my limited experience.  So many of the other people who had applied in previous years had backgrounds in art, had been educated in art beyond my short high school art classes.  Many of them had shown their art at art shows, been involved in the art community, and had taken steps to improve their craft through participating in various artsy activities.

It is a bummer that I cannot proceed with a grant to help me in exploring new possibilities, but that was the point of my KICKSTARTER project.  I have taken the initiative to create my own artwork, and show it here and to family members.  Hopefully I will soon find myself putting on an art show somewhere soon.  I need to get up the courage, and the time to put together pieces that I am willing and able to show.


Dyeing with Cleome


Last year, I planted these plants.  I couldn’t remember what they were.  Surprisingly they took over the back of one of our landscapes.  They are really neat flowers.  Their flowers turn into seeds and each individual stalk continues to grow.  I am not anywhere near a person who is knowledgeable in gardening or flowers, but I thought this was quite unique.  I decided to pick off the flower heads and use them to dye wool.  Upon doing so, my fingers were covered in a sticky mess.  I had to wash my hands multiple times to get the “stickiness” to go away.  Not only that, but the main stalk of each plant is protected by thorns, not unlike those found on rose bushes.  Anyway, today I decided to start my journey into dyeing with cleomes.  Cleomes are also known as Spider Flower, Rose Queen, Cleome spinosa, Cleome hasslerana