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Natural Dye Workshop


We have been talking about having a natural dye workshop for quite a while.  I love the natural dyes although Peggy is happier with the acid and fiber reactive dyes.  It's great that we cover all the bases between us.  The Tall Pines Spinning & Weaving Guild, located in North Houston, asked us to put on the natural dye workshop for their members this spring.   I had told Gloria Chuckman, president of Tall Pines, that I thought 10 would be our maximum number of attendees.  We ended up having five, plus Peggy and I, and that turned out to be the perfect number.  Any more people and we might have been falling over each other.

We had quite a bit of our yarn already mordanted and ready for the dye pots, and for sale, when people arrived although everyone brought yarn of their own to dye.  We set up pots to mordant all the new yarn in - Alum, Tin, Copper and Chrome.  Somehow we never got around to using Iron.

We spent most of the morning mordanting and collecting dye stuffs.  We chopped down Yarrow from one of my garden bins,

gathered Bronze Fennel from my front garden...

and picked up oak galls from under my various oak trees.  My dear husband, Ron, made us a wonderful lunch of salad and sandwiches so after we'd eaten we were ready to dye.

We started the indigo vat and cooked up the Yarrow, Bronze Fennel and oak galls along with black walnut husks, cochineal, onion skins and Osage Orange, a total of 8 natural dyes.  Among us we dyed wool, silk, mohair, cotton and various blends.  It was great!  We have a great spin dryer to spin out the water and then hung the yarn up to dry...

We ended up with a nice palette of colors...

A special thanks to Gloria Chuckman for letting me use her photos!  Note to self..... next time let's skip the Yarrow and Fennel.  Both gave us very unremarkable beiges not worth repeating.  I'll try them again sometime during the heat of the summer to see if we get any better colors.  If not, I'll pull up all the Yarrow and plant something else for color.  The Bronze Fennel in our front garden is there to please the caterpillars so that will continue to have a home regardless of it's worth as a dye.  There are lots of other natural dyes to use.  I'm growing marigolds which give nice yellows/golds and the madder is doing well.  I just planted the madder this spring so it will be several years till we can dig up the roots for dye.

We are already planning our next natural dye workshop.  Temperatures are consistently in the 90's now so we will wait till the fall.