Natural Dye Tutorial Part II

April 15, 2010

Although I love to dye yarn, my favorite part of dying is working with natural wool. I think that must be because of how much I love the meditative feeling of sitting with my spinning wheel, and also I think the raw qualities of natural wool draws me in.

Dying wool is also one of the easiest ways to really understand how color combinations may work, what colors you like together, and which will simply never work.

Some tips for immersion dying (yarn, wool, silk, etc.)

~Ventilation is important when dying. Dying outdoors is both refreshing, and a great way to provide natural air movement. If dying inside, open the windows to allow some fresh air in.

~ Test your fiber and colors with a small amount of the fiber that you will be using before immersing your entire piece. This allows you to know for sure if the color is exactly the way you want.

~Remember that with natural dyes, each batch will be slightly different, depending on the season that it was harvested, the weather conditions of that year, etc. One of my favorites dyes is Lac, and each batch that I order, it always looks slightly different. If you are dying as a business, it will be important to remember to dye enough yarn at a time to allow people what they need to create their piece. If dying for yourself, always make sure that you dye your skeins together to ensure color continuity for your project.

~ Your water makes a difference (chlorine, metals, etc.), so if you are planning to use different water supplies, your yarns and fiber will look different.

~ If you are dying with Indigo, have a dedicated pot to keep your indigo concentration in, and store somewhere where no one can accidentally spill it (that is a mess you never want to experience).

~ Remember that working with natural dyes, either from your garden or concentrated, will produce a residue. These are truly natural materials, and you may see some of that even once the fiber is dried and ready to use.

~ Wear gloves to be safe.

To begin the dying process

1. If you have natural fibers that have not been washed, you will want to scour them to remove dirt, oils, etc.

2. Weigh your dry fiber to determine the Dry Weight of The Goods. You will use this # to determine both how much mordant is needed, as well as how much dye.

3. As I mentioned yesterday, you will want to soak your fiber through before you begin the mordanting process (except raw fiber). I generally always soak my yarns over night, and my fiber in the roaster during the mordanting process.

As you can see, the process is relatively easy, and a lot of fun to do.

1. Fill your roaster with hot water, and allow to come to 250 degrees. Dissolve the amount of mordant to be used (see below on how to determine how much you need) with boiling water, and add it to the water in the roaster.
2. Weigh out the amount of fiber that you would like to use, and place it into your mesh painters bag.
3. Very carefully add the fiber into the water, and using a fork or spoon, gently submerge it into the water. Cover
4. Allow the fiber to soak into the mordant for about two hours, being careful to ensure that the water never comes to even a simmer.
5. Once the fiber is done mordanting, prepare your dyes and add them in by pouring over the fiber.
6. You can gently use a spoon to lift the fiber up and allow the dye to color the bottom of the fiber.
7. Allow to sit in the dye for at least 30 minutes, or however long it takes the dye to strike.
8. Carefully remove the mesh bag with the fiber inside. Place the bag into a strainer, and allow to cool.
9. Fill a small plastic tub (or sink) with water, and allow it to soak. gently rinse the fiber until it runs clean.
10. You can very carefully roll the fiber up in a towel, being careful to not squeeze, and then place on a drying rack in the sunshine, or inside with a towel under it to catch the water.

One major question for anyone wanting to dye yarns naturally would be, how does the Dry Weight of Goods equation work, and exactly how much dye do I need to use.

The Dye Works has a wonderful web page dedicated to mordanting and dying with natural materials, and they provide a chart listing the dyes that they carry, and the percentages that you need of each. They also have a segment that explains exactly how to determine your WOG, and how to use it throughout the dying process.

One thing to keep in mind is that EVERY dye has a rate of strike (meaning how fast will the dye exhaust itself). This is very important for many reasons, one being how to combine colors, but also in determining the amount of dye that you may want to use, and how long to leave it in the pot for. Again, if you click on the individual name of the dye on the Dye Works website, you will see that they give you the strike of each dye.

On Tuesday, I will be completing the tutorials with my favorite ways to both immersion dye, and hand paint yarns, and I will share a few of my favorite color recipes as well.


Our Great Outdoors Challenge pic for today is a funny little moment that I captured of Elwood doing all that he could think of to find a way to climb a tree like his big brother.

See you tomorrow for Circle of Stones

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

jessica April 15, 2010 at 11:19 am

I think my weekend is going to be devoted to dying yarn. My mind is swirling with endless possibilities. I have to say my favorite part of creating is learning new and different things to do. Knitting warms my soul so much and to be able to now dye my own yarn is so exciting. I'll let you know how it all goes!!

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Healing Hillary April 15, 2010 at 1:09 pm

cute climbing pic…keep the dying info coming :)!

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Nicola April 15, 2010 at 4:30 pm

I tried so hard to leave a comment yesterday, but it just wouldn't let me! Congrats to the big bike rider!
This tutorial is right up my ally! Thank you thank you!
Nicola

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Bethany April 15, 2010 at 4:37 pm

These are great tutorials! I know that there is so much that goes into dying yarn, but it is great to actually see the video on how to dye wool. I love needle felting, and this makes me feel more confident that I could actually dye some up myself. Thanks for sharing

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Shivayamama April 15, 2010 at 4:39 pm

Thanks Bethany. The roaster method is such an easy way to dye wool, and it gives such a nice end product. Let me know if you even any questions.

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Valarie April 16, 2010 at 12:43 am

Well ok, I'm off to go dye yarn. Look at that big boy climbing trees. You see what happens when you blink? They just grow up. He is so cute.

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Francesca April 16, 2010 at 11:31 am

Fascinating, Heather. Will you also cover the spinning part? Thank you for all the work you put into these great tutorials. I'm going to watch them both again, the first viewing was just sheer amazement, and I'm not sure I got everything.

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Shivayamama April 16, 2010 at 3:57 pm

I think that it is so awesome hat you are interested in dying yarn. It is a lot of fun, and I think that you will love sitting down to put your yarn to needles and realizing that you created the colors, etc. that you are going to use. Can't wait to see what you create

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Shivayamama April 16, 2010 at 3:58 pm

Thanks Hillary. Elwood is my child who will always find the easiest, least exerting way to do anything :)

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Shivayamama April 16, 2010 at 3:59 pm

It drives me crazy! I am so sorry Nicola for that.

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AG Ambroult April 16, 2010 at 6:21 pm

I'm learning so much! thanks for this tutorial!

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kerry April 17, 2010 at 12:34 pm

This tutorial is so interesting. Thank you for sharing about this. You have created a wonderful resource for us.

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Lisa Q April 18, 2010 at 12:37 pm

wow…are you sure you don't want to keep dying and selling/…i'd so much rather buy from you (if I can get on esty before it sells out!), than dye yarn myself…you are so good! :) thanks heather!

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Imene April 18, 2010 at 5:40 pm

You are guilty to introducing me to the most addictive craft of all. I love your two part series, it is so informative!!!

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