Adventures In...

Adventures In…Natural Dyeing!

I’ve been natural dyeing!
Natural dyeing is basically dyeing stuff (fabric or yarn) with natural dyes. So dyes that occur naturally, rather than being produced synthetically (often from petrochemicals and other nasties).
They can be things that you can find in your kitchen, like tea, and onion skins; things you can find in your garden, like marigolds and dandelions; or extracts that you can buy, like indigo.

I’ve dyed a couple of things in the past using Dylon dyes, and although it meant that I ‘rescued’ something and gave it another lease of life, the chemical hazard sign on the back of the box did make me feel a little uneasy.

Dye boots collage
I kind of assumed that natural dyeing wouldn’t be as effective as chemical dyeing, and that the range of colours would be very muted, and kind of ‘hippy’ and a bit ‘beige’. But I was very wrong!
I started pinning Natural Dyeing posts and inspiration, and the colours and effects that can be achieved is amazing!
And then two serendipitous things happened:
I stumbled across the We Make Collective, and saw that their next kit available was natural dyeing, and it was an indigo dyeing kit. I signed up!
I went to ‘Unravel’, which is an annual festival of all things woolly in Farnham. There were 2 or 3 natual dyers there, alongwith producers selling skeins of undyed yarn. I bought some! As well as a couple of Natural Dyeing books (The Modern Natural Dyer by Kristine Vejar of A Verb for Keeping Warm, and Natural Dyes by Judy Hardam and Sally Pinhey)

My kit from We Make Collective arrived last weekend, and I sat and looked at it all week before deciding to have a go.
And I’m so glad I did-I had the loveliest day pottering around the kitchen, dipping and mixing and rinsing.
And it worked!
I shouldn’t be surprised but I was. My attempts at shibori dyeing looked like they did in the book-amazing!

Indigo Dyeing Collage-title

The advantage of Indigo Dyeing is that there is no need to use any kinds of ‘mordants’ to ‘fix’ the dye to your fabric or yarn. The disadvantage is that the whole creation of the indigo vat sounds quite daunting. However the kit from We Make Collective made the whole process really simple-you just need a bucket and some warm water. Check.
I am aware of how messy I am, so I took no risks and got the newspaper out to cover the floor.
AND unusually for me, I got all prepared before I got started-I even pre-washed my fabric…

Indigo Dyeing

With indigo dyeing and shibori, you fold and clamp/tie the fabric in all kinds of different ways to get different effects. The parts that the dye can’t reach stay white, while the rest of the fabric gets dyed that really rich indigo blue.
I followed the instructions in the Modern Natural Dyer book to achieve these effects:

Scarf Twist Collage

Centred Square Collage

Beach House collage

Indigo Dyeing11

Indigo Dyeing08

Indigo Dyeing06

I also had a cream cardigan that I had ear-marked for dyeing as it wasn’t a very flattering colour on me:

The dye uptake is a bit patchy, which isn't really the look I was going for, but I think the effect is growing on me...!

The dye uptake is a bit patchy, which isn’t really the look I was going for, but I think the effect is growing on me…!

And then I grabbed a top that I dyed last year with elderberries that was a bit of a dull brown colour:

Again, there is some patchy uptake, but I'm going to pretend it was intentional...

Again, there is some patchy uptake, but I’m going to pretend it was intentional…

And then I chucked in my skeins of undyed yarn:


I think the dye was becoming ‘exhausted’ by this point, so the colours are more muted

I can’t tell you how much fun this one!
I’m dyeing (sorry!) to have another go 🙂


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  • Reply Jane Galley February 27, 2016 at 7:56 am

    I’d love to try this, it’s on my list. Love the yarn too

    • Reply Jen March 21, 2016 at 4:57 pm

      Thanks Jane!

  • Reply Meg February 26, 2016 at 9:35 pm

    What fun! It certainly looks as if you have been bitten by the bug. I don’t wear blue so have not been tempted with indigo but I have ordered some madder and cutch, and will be harvesting ivy soon for khaki green.

    I hope you had fun at Unravel. I couldn’t justify going as I’m off to Edinburgh Yarn Festival next month…

    • Reply Jen March 21, 2016 at 4:57 pm

      It’s so addictive isn’t it Meg?! I keep eyeing up the ivy too, and I’ve just been and got the first of the nettles too-no idea what it will turn out like!

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