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Natural Dying ~ The Thyme to Dye is Coming!

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Natural Dying ~ The Thyme to Dye is Coming!

Post  SwampTroll on 5/20/2017, 4:24 pm

Okay, well perhaps not quite with Thyme, but I couldn't ignore such a beautiful plant related pun.

I'm a knitter and a rebel.   I can't do things the easy way.  It's all my mom's fault.

So instead of buying pre-dyed yarn, I often enjoy attempting to dye it in various fashions myself.

In this eco-centric era, why would one use chemicals when one could just harvest things out of one's own yard to dye with?

Beets, various flowers, onion skins, avocado skins (and pits) all of these can and have been used to dye fiber.

In previous years, I've grown red cabbage, indigo, and other dye stuffs.

I'm not sure if I'll be able to integrate dyestuffs into the garden that I've got planned, but we shall see how the final plans work out.


Last edited by camprn on 5/23/2017, 12:00 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : Clarified title)
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Re: Natural Dying ~ The Thyme to Dye is Coming!

Post  AlwaysHotinFL on 5/20/2017, 4:42 pm

Not a veggie, but mulberries are notorious for dying driveways/sidewalks/hands, etc
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Re: Natural Dying ~ The Thyme to Dye is Coming!

Post  Turan on 5/21/2017, 12:21 am

I also grow and have grown various natural dye plants. Coreopsis is a fine bright yellow, marigolds are a bit bronze, indigo (no woad here) for blue, and madder for reds
I raise sheep and spin my own yarn as well.

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Re: Natural Dying ~ The Thyme to Dye is Coming!

Post  sanderson on 5/21/2017, 4:36 am

Dying yard! Very intriguing. Good for you guys

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Re: Natural Dying ~ The Thyme to Dye is Coming!

Post  SwampTroll on 5/21/2017, 12:24 pm

@AlwaysHotinFL wrote:Not a veggie, but mulberries are notorious for dying driveways/sidewalks/hands, etc

The problem with mulberries is that they taste good.  I may have a lot of self-control, but it's hard not eating all of them.
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Re: Natural Dying ~ The Thyme to Dye is Coming!

Post  SwampTroll on 5/21/2017, 12:26 pm

@Turan wrote:I also grow and have grown various natural dye plants. Coreopsis is a fine bright yellow, marigolds are a bit bronze, indigo (no woad here) for blue, and madder for reds
I raise sheep and spin my own yarn as well.


I tried to do Coreopsis, but it didn't take and you're right it wasn't indigo that I did, but woad.  In addition I also tried madder, but it didn't do very well.  Perhaps now that I have more experience under my belt I'll try again next year.

My wife is the spinner, I simply dye.
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Re: Natural Dying ~ The Thyme to Dye is Coming!

Post  Turan on 5/21/2017, 12:42 pm

The best coreopsis is the one called Tickseed, species tinctorium. I found that it is also a photo sensitive dye, it becomes brighter after exposure to sun, at least when coming out of the dye pot. What mordants are you using?
Mulberries are fun but it is not a permanent dye, same with beets and red cabbage.

Natural dyeing is part of my job description, it is fun to talk and think about small batches from the garden.

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Re: Natural Dying ~ The Thyme to Dye is Coming!

Post  SwampTroll on 5/21/2017, 1:34 pm

I don't remember exactly which mordant I used for the red cabbage, but it turned out a lovely permanent silver on one skein, and a yellowish green on a second.
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Re: Natural Dying ~ The Thyme to Dye is Coming!

Post  Turan on 5/21/2017, 1:55 pm

Silver? Way cool. I once got something similar with pomegranate. Never been able to repeat it though.
I want to take some chemistry to learn about what is happening in these dyes.

With coreopsis and other yellow dye plants (tansy, calendula, goldenrod, etc) and with madder I learned that a pre-mordant bath that is long, like a week, makes for much better dye take up. I use alum as a mordant pretty exclusively, often balanced with cream of tartar. The other thing with dyeing madder is the calcium needed varies according to how much calcium is in hte water, even here with very hard calcium rich water I end up adding Tums until the color develops in the bath.

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Re: Natural Dying ~ The Thyme to Dye is Coming!

Post  SwampTroll on 5/21/2017, 6:15 pm

Where do you get your alum from for mordanting?

I've also heard that you can use rhubarb leaves to mordant with, just be careful and not to do it indoors if at all possible, and obviously full gloves and the like are required due to the toxic nature of rhubarb leaves.
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Re: Natural Dying ~ The Thyme to Dye is Coming!

Post  Turan on 5/21/2017, 9:07 pm

I have used pickling alum, and dyer's alum, and water filter alum all successfully.  I suspect the differences are just a matter of purity with food grade the purest.  Pickling alum is at the grocery store and is most expensive.  Dyer's alum can be ordered from dyer supply houses.  We got a pallet full from the water filter plant for the last.  It is something the ancients traded for.  

Rhubarb leaves would give you both a tannin and oxalic acid mordants.  Tannin I know, it makes a nice beige on wool but doesn't really seem to morddant it, but is most used a lot as a mordant for cotton.  Oxalic acid is new to me and is not used in any of my books but I see it in online references.  This intrigues me, as I have lots of rhubarb, but the cautions are worrisome.

There is a plant called 'Alum Root' but I know nothing about it but am curious.

You might be interested in a book- 'A Weaver's Garden' by Rita Buchanan

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Re: Natural Dying ~ The Thyme to Dye is Coming!

Post  sanderson on 5/22/2017, 4:07 am

Well, now I know what mordant means in dying.

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Re: Natural Dying ~ The Thyme to Dye is Coming!

Post  SwampTroll on 5/22/2017, 9:57 am

I believe I got the idea to use Rhubarb leaves to mordant from the book "Wild Color by Jenny Dean".  Supposedly rhubarb makes yellows greener and reds more orange.  If I do experiment with it later in the season, I'll let you know how it turns out.

Interesting that you mention cotton, as that's been one fiber I've been unable to mordant no matter what I'm using.  EVERYTHING washes off.

I don't have "A Weaver's Garden", but I do have "A Dyers Garden" by the same author.
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Re: Natural Dying ~ The Thyme to Dye is Coming!

Post  camprn on 5/23/2017, 12:02 pm


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Re: Natural Dying ~ The Thyme to Dye is Coming!

Post  sanderson on 5/23/2017, 1:37 pm

Can you guys post photos of the colors you have been able to produce? Thank you

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Re: Natural Dying ~ The Thyme to Dye is Coming!

Post  Turan on 5/23/2017, 2:07 pm

Love to Very Happy

This was a Rumex experiment (Dock, a relative of rhubarb, you use the root) It is over dyed with madder on the left and with indigo on the right.


A rug coming off my loom. The yarns are dyed with avacado, walnut, madder and indigo and cochineal.  I started this in California with the stuff growing around me, avacado and walnut and first attempts at madder. I finished it here in Montana with more madder and learning to do an indigo vat.


Results from madder dyeing at work.


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Re: Natural Dying ~ The Thyme to Dye is Coming!

Post  sanderson on 5/24/2017, 3:06 am

I love you I love you

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Re: Natural Dying ~ The Thyme to Dye is Coming!

Post  trolleydriver on 5/24/2017, 7:07 am

Turan that is amazing.  Looks really nice.

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Re: Natural Dying ~ The Thyme to Dye is Coming!

Post  mschaef on 5/25/2017, 12:54 am

Last fall I taught myself to knit and am curious about the dye used to the wool that I use. Love all the information that you all have shared and the pictures. Makes me want to get some wool and try dyeing it myself. I keep telling the hubby that when we finally settle down that I'm getting sheep for the garden/ wool for knitting.
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Re: Natural Dying ~ The Thyme to Dye is Coming!

Post  sanderson on 5/25/2017, 1:46 am

Turan, Photos of your loom? It must be a really nice one to produce that quality, smooth rug.

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Re: Natural Dying ~ The Thyme to Dye is Coming!

Post  Turan on 5/25/2017, 1:20 pm

Aww, thanks, Sanderson. I chose the picture that did not show the problems with that rug. None of these were the loom's fault, however. That loom is a Leclerc Fanny that I bought at auction from SanDeigo State Uni when they discontinued their textiles department. I was a student and it was a big investment for me (130$, a new one costs 20X more). This is what it looks like.


That rug in a way took 30 years. It started with me shearing the serum sheep for the university. I learned a lot about spinning on those fleeces and then dyed the yarns experimenting with natural dyes. A weaving friend recommended that I buy some more regular carpet yarn and use it like a back ground to help maintain a uniformity of thickness to the rug. That yarn is what I dyed with indigo. The edges are not even or straight, I did not know how much different patterns would affect them. It spent years covered with a sheet in a corner while life did not include weaving big things. Then one winter I got going and finished it.

I do a lot more knitting with my yarns and some weaving on a smaller loom. The big one is warped and any moment now I will get another rug going, or something else.

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Re: Natural Dying ~ The Thyme to Dye is Coming!

Post  SwampTroll on 5/25/2017, 3:53 pm

@mschaef  One of the easiest ways to begin dyeing is actually with Kool-Aid.  Non-toxic easy and VIBRANT colors.  I'll have to post pictures of my Kool-Aid dyed scarf when I get home.
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Re: Natural Dying ~ The Thyme to Dye is Coming!

Post  Turan on 5/25/2017, 6:46 pm

A fun thing to do with kids is make felt balls from wool dyed with various colored Kool Aids

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Re: Natural Dying ~ The Thyme to Dye is Coming!

Post  SwampTroll on 5/25/2017, 7:28 pm

They do make wonderful fabric softeners as well.  The felted colored balls, that is.
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Re: Natural Dying ~ The Thyme to Dye is Coming!

Post  sanderson on 5/26/2017, 3:31 pm

Looking forward to more photos.

Turan, I know they are expensive. Beautiful



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Re: Natural Dying ~ The Thyme to Dye is Coming!

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