I love working with natural dyes. I love picking the plants - marigolds or goldenrod or whatever else grows around me. I also love working with the natural materials that I can't go outside and find - like cochineal for example. Then there are the plants that can and do grow here but require a high level of commitment to produce yourself. Various plants make indigotin, the initial form of indigo, but the process is precise even after you have grown the plants. Osage Orange trees grow around here but to get the dye out of the heartwood requires grinding up the wood into sawdust.
Sort of looks like raspberry and lemon pop, right? It's actually cochineal and goldenrod. Cochineal is a small scale insect that infests cactus. It gives a wonderful pink-red color and it always impresses. We got two dye baths from one small knee high stocking filled with about 1/2 cup of dried cochineal bugs. There is plenty of dye left in those bugs so once I run out of yarn to dye on this round I'll pull out the bag of bugs and dry it on the clothesline for use next time.
The bright lemony yellow is from goldenrod. We must have eradicated all the goldenrod growing along my street when we picked it last year because this year I couldn't find any out here. Peggy picked a bucket full near her house and brought it out with her yesterday. It gives the most wonderful clear bright yellow! There are other plants that give nice yellows but none quite so happy as goldenrod.
We also dyed three batches of Panda. Panda does not contain any actual panda but is a happy blend of super wash Merino wool, Rayon of Bamboo and a bit of Nylon. It's the perfect fiber for spinning your own sock yarn. We were just about out of it so needed to dye up some more.
I'm working on a dye bath of madder root which I hope will give us a nice tomato red and some paduak wood shavings which I'm currently unimpressed with but I may have to revisit my method. Some further investigation is required before I give up on it.