Playing with Natural Dyes Part 1

Playing with Natural Dyes Part 1

With summer finally here in the US, it’s wonderful to see color in the yard and all around.  I recently had lunch with Cathy (Luvswool) and she showed me some of the prints and natural dyeing she’s been doing with lately. She’s been devoting most of her time natural dyeing and got me interested in trying it.  You can find her dye blog here

So, with her guidance I took the plunge and began experimenting. I ordered some dyes online from the Woolery and Dharma Trading.  My first try was with Osage Orange.  What I didn’t realize was that the item I ordered was Osage Sawdust so I had an extra couple of steps to get the dye liquor prepared for the bath.


For each dye experiment I used a small amount of silk gauze, silk habotai, silk mulberry, wool yarn, merino and corriedale roving.

I could have used a copper penny to make a brighter color, but I was happy with the results. The top pic is while wet, the bottom two are after drying.  Its actually more light yellow than coffee color. You’ll see two small pieces of felt I threw into the pot without mordanting at the bottom.  They did take the color.

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20160627_150117The next dye I tried was madder root.  I had recently used up some of the madder roving Cathy had given me from her Arkansas residency last year in my coral piece.  So I was anxious to see if I could get the same color.

Again, I didn’t order powder, but actual roots, so there were extra steps involved to  get to the bath.


While wet:


After using the madder alone, I divided the fibers in half and used iron in a separate bath.


Here they are dry:


Its interesting the mulberry silk on the right with the iron did not get dark.20160623_120335

With each other, without iron on top, with iron on the bottom.


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Subtle differences, but not the same color that Cathy got in Arkansas.  But then there are differences in water, temperature, etc. But I’m pleased with the results.

Thanks Cathy for helping me through the process.


16 thoughts on “Playing with Natural Dyes Part 1

    1. Thanks Lyn! It is work, but it’s also fun to see what results you can achieve.

  1. You got some nice colours, Marilyn 🙂 Do you find with the extra steps/heating twice the wool gets felted/matted more than with acid dyes? It doesn’t seem to affect the sheen on the silk which is good.

    1. Thanks Zed! Interesting enough the wool doesn’t felt any more going in twice. Judith is right if you keep the temp under boiling at about 85C or 185F it works fine. But you have to watch the pot.

  2. Marilyn, you have a lovely stash of fiber now for felting. Love the natural colors you achieved, which all blend beautifully together. Looking forward to seeing additional results of your natural dyeing!

    1. Thanks for the compliment and your guidance through the process. The colors are nice. Can you believe it’s been two years since we did the indigo?

  3. You got some nice colours there Marilyn and thanks to good old Mother Nature, natural colours always go well together. You’ll have to try some plants from your garden next. 🙂

    1. Thanks Judith! You’re right the natural colors do go very well together. I will be clipping some flowers and leaves to try some Eco printing. I’m not sure what else in my yard I could use for dyeing. I did give Cathy some walnut hulls last fall from the neighborhood and brought back some sweet gum seeds from California for her to try. I suppose anything can be tried. I’ll have to do some research for plants here in the Midwest.

  4. Great natural colors you achieved Marilyn. It’s always interesting to see since it seems natural dyeing always yields unexpected results. There are so many variables that might be different each time.

    1. Thanks Ruth! It is fun to see what will happen especially when you can change some of the variables.

  5. You got some great colours with the madder. Not sure about the Osage Orange though. It looks pretty much the same as onions.
    a friend uses the pot as mordant so an iron pot, a copper pot, an aluminum pot. I wonder if using a clay opt on a fire would change things. probably depends on the kind of clay.

  6. Thanks Ann! I use a stainless steel pot. I’m sure a different kind of pot would change the results. As far as the Osage it’s a little yellower than an onion. It’s not bright but a mellow yellow. 🙂 Between the camera and the computer monitors it’s not always accurate, but close enough.

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