Natural Dye Workshop

What a hoot!  We had such a great time this past Saturday foraging and dyeing some wonderful colors.

We started off foraging for natural dye materials.  We picked up oak galls knowing they would give us a great soft beige/tan.

We dug up madder roots from my garden bin.  I planted the madder about 9 years ago and this is the first time we have dug up roots.  I had some ground madder roots to add to the brew but we wanted fresh roots also.  We are always on the hunt for the perfect madder red although the perfect madder red/orange is a wonderful color, too and well worth the effort.

And we gathered soft yellow coreopsis blooms from along the roadside in front of my house.  It's a little early in the year for Dyer's Coreopsis so I was hedging my bet by having dried material on hand also.

We cooked up the madder roots

and the blossoms and managed some pretty spectacular dye baths. We also dyed with dried cochineal, powdered logwood and Osage Orange sawdust.  We tried some dried purple basil and it was a complete bust but other than that we got fantastic colors!

Interestingly, we got a beautiful clear yellow from the Osage orange and a glorious gold from the coreopsis blooms - just the reverse of what I expected.  It just proves that you never know till the yarn comes out of the dye bath what colors you'll end up with.

Ron made us a fabulous lunch of curry chicken salad and cut up fresh fruit along with little croissants and freshly baked Italian bread.  It was a wonderful break in the middle of the day - not to mention the joy of sitting down for a few minutes!

When we got back outside after the lunch, the indigo vat was finally ready to roll.  It had stubbornly refused to reduce during the morning.  I had used all my Thiox to no avail and fell back on Rit color remover.  It worked like a charm.  I think this will be my new favorite indigo dye recipe.

I had spent the previous week mordanting yarn for the dye workshop so we had alum, copper and chrome yarn to play with. It was interesting to see how the colors varied with the mordant used.  We also dyed with onion skins and oak galls that don't require a mordant so from those dye pots we got mordanted vs. unmordanted yarn to compare.  All in all it was great fun. 

Thanks to Jo, Linda, Caryn, Gloria and Charlene for all they brought to the day.  It wouldn't have been nearly so much fun without them!