Welcome to my new Natural Dyeing Series! I’ve been wanting to delve into the fun world of natural dyes for a long time and I’m super excited. My normal go-to dyes are Jacquard Acid Dyes so this is a whole new adventure for me. Technically, this is Part 2 since I already wrote a post on Dyeing Yarn with Black Walnuts so, let’s call this Part 2: Natural Dyeing with Dandelions. I’m hoping for a lovely yellow dyed yarn.
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What are Natural Dyes?
Natural dyes are dyes made from plants, vegetables, insects, minerals, tree bark, mushrooms and lichens. Basically, it’s a dye derived from any natural material. If something has a color in it, chances are you can extract it as a dye. Now, don’t let the word ‘natural’ fool you, tho into thinking this is completely harmless! Sometimes it is, sometimes it’s not. Enter, the Mordant ….
What is a Mordant?
A mordant is a substance that is used to make a dye bond to the fabric or yarn. It ‘sets’ the color. The majority of natural dye materials require a mordant to set dye but there are a few exceptions such as black walnuts which are colorfast by themselves. Mordants can also be used to change the final color of your yarn or fabric. Some common mordants include: Alum, Copper, Tin and Iron.
For this Natural Dyeing with Dandelions tutorial, I used Alum which is readily available in the canning or spice section of your grocery store.
*** Safety Note! Always wear a face mask when handling mordants or dye powders.
Here’s a great article on various Mordants and their uses.
Dyeing with Dandelions
- Yarn – Wool dyes best. I used 100% Cotton Yarn
- Alum Mordant
- Dandelion blossoms (I used 2 parts blooms to 1 part yarn)
- Non-reactive pots, pans and measuring spoons
- Stove or hot plate
- Hot water
Note: Since some products used in dyeing can potentially be toxic, it’s a good idea to have a dedicated set of pots and pans not used for food preparation. Hint: check your local thrift shop
Mordant the Yarn:
As it turns out, the only white yarn I had available was 100% Cotton. A lovely yarn but I found out later that it does not take natural dyes as well. Ultimately, I was pretty happy with the end result, but in retrospect, I would go with a protein fiber yarn such as alpaca fiber or sheep wool.
How much Mordant?
Honestly, after checking a lot of sources, I’m a little confused about the amount of mordant needed per fiber. Taking them all into consideration, I came up with 8% mordant to fiber. Since I was mordanting about 2 ounces of yarn, that came to 1 teaspoon of alum mordant. This was dissolved in a cup of hot water.
I put about 2 inches of warm water in my stock pot to which I added the pre-dissolved alum. I stirred and added the yarn. At this point, you want to stop stirring. Wool fiber will felt with agitation.
Bring your yarn to a light boil, then simmer for about 45 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the yarn to cool to room temp. At this point, you can either let it dry for later use or immediately move to the dyeing phase.
Prepare the Dandelion Dye:
Go out and pick a ton of dandelion blooms! Ok, not a ton but lots and lots. I used 2 ounces of blooms to dye 1 ounce of yarn. The more blooms you pick, the stronger the dyebath.
Put the dandelions in a non-reactive cooking pot and add hot water. I used about 3 cups. Set it on the stove, bring to a boil and simmer for about 2 hours. Strain out the flower parts and reserve the dye stock.
Dyeing the Yarn
Here is where you combine it all. Add the dye stock to your non reactive pot. Heat it to just a warm temp and add your yarn. Bring that to a light boil, then simmer for about an hour. Turn off the heat and let the yarn cool. When the yarn is wet, don’t agitate or move it around which can cause felting.
Once cool, remove the yarn and rinse it with luke warm water. Hang to dry. The end result was a nice, soft yellow colored yarn. The remaining dye can be used for another round of yarn altho it will be a lot lighter.
That’s all there’s to it! I’m cooking up my next Natural Dyeing tutorial so come back to see what it is.
Also see: Natural Dyeing with Black Walnuts