Exploring Natural Dyes with Wool

Recently, I have been trying out some natural dyes with my wool. My friend Shelby got me started with a lesson at her house. We explored:

madder root. Shelby prepared this by grinding it up. Here it is in the sieve.


I dyed some yarn, some at full strength and some after we had “exhausted” the dye pot some. Here it is drying and then ready to use.

I used it in these hot pads (the other colors are natural grey and some yarn I dyed with hawthorn berries, which only gave a pale yellow):

I also made a felted bowl. The felting seemed to change the colors some.

I have explored something from my own farm – red iron bark, a kind of eucalyptus. First, I thought maybe I could try dyeing with some bark from another kinds of eucalyptus. In the end, it looked too pale to use. My dog, Ringo, thought he could be helpful, though as I filled the pail with water.

Back to the red iron bark. I learned about using it from a very helpful book by Rebecca Burgess: “Harvesting Color”.

In this book, Rebecca gives a lot of help for new dyers – basic equipment, a master dye bath recipe and how to make and use mordants (the things that help the color bind to the yarn) and much, much more. It turns out, you can get different colors from red iron bark, depending on when you harvest it, how much you use, and how long your fiber stays in the dye bath.

See the red color in the stems? Rebecca explains that the color can give you a clue that you might get reddish color from this tree.

Here’s what I got the first time I tried it. The yellow is the red iron bark, the grey and white are natural Jacob Sheep yarn.

My friend, Chris, suggested this color combination. I thought it was a really good suggestion and so I made this hot pad from these yarns.

See how nice it looks on Chris’ table?!

I am enjoying working with natural dyes. It is like opening a present to see what the yarn color turns out to be. I am now participating as an artisan on the Fibershed Marketplace. Here is a link to the website if you want to see some more of my products, some with natural colors and some naturally dyed: Fibershed Marketplace. My items are under “Housewares”.

A last note: I enjoy preparing the wool for my projects out on my patio. It’s nice to be able to be out there with our dogs running around. However, sometimes, Ringo (as he was above) is just a little too helpful. He seems to think that laying on my collecting screen will be helpful when I’m trying to use the picker to prepare the wool for carding. Not helpful, Ringo!

Published in: on April 16, 2012 at 5:04 am  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. I love that Ringo. He is most definitely “helping!”

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