More on natural wool dyes

PICT5486I’ve been experimenting with home-made dyes for several years now whether it was dying play silks with Kool-Aid, looking for natural dyes for wool, dyes for home-made zero waste wrapping paper, or dying easter eggs.

This week, I dyed some wool roving with saffron and berries and the results were nice enough that I wanted to share!

Saffron Dye
Saffron makes perhaps the most vibrant natural wool dye of any of the ones I’ve experimented with, and one that seems to stay bright through multiple washings. I’ve dyed both play silks and wool with this dye, and you can bet we’ll be doing some yellow Easter Eggs this spring!

1 T saffron threads
1 c white vinegar
2 Q water
1 ounce wool roving

PICT5482
Bring the water to a boil and add the saffron threads. I think the *ideal* next step would be to steep the dye for about an hour, then strain and reheat to a boil. As you might be able to tell from the tiny saffron threads still stuck to my wool, I did the slightly less ideal strain-with-a-spoon-because-you’re-in-a-hurry method. Live & learn.

Add the white vinegar, stir, and turn to low. Run your wool under hot water until it is evenly wet and then add to the pot and let it simmer for an hour. At this point, remove from heat and let it sit for up to 12 hours or until desired color depth is achieved (I did the wool pictured above overnight). Gently remove the wool and submerge in cool water until the water is clear. Let as much water as possible drain from the wool and either place in a lingerie bag and hand spin (outside) to dry, or lay it in a sunny location until dry. Do not wring the wool out, because it may start to felt if you do!

Berry Dye

I have dyed eggs and play silks with straight blueberries and have found the resulting color rather blue-gray. Wanting something a bit more purple, I added some raspberries to this mix. As you can see from comparing the picture of the finished wool up top to the picture of the dye bath below, the wool did NOT maintain the brilliant violet red color of the dye and is more of a muted purple. I’m still happy with it, but will be looking for dyes to get a more vibrant red color.

Notes: Beets would work in place of raspberries, and I used frozen berries for this batch, but fresh would also work.

1 c blueberries
1/2 c raspberries
1 cup vinegar
2 Q water
1 ounce wool roving

PICT5479Bring water to a boil and add the berries. Mash them up as they cook so that as much juice as possible comes out into the water. Remove from heat and, when cool enough to work with, strain, crushing the berries in the strainer to get the remaining juice out. Return water to a boil and add vinegar. Turn to low. Run your wool under hot water until it is evenly wet and then add to the pot and let it simmer for an hour. At this point, remove from heat and let it sit for up to 12 hours or until desired color depth is achieved (I did the wool pictured above overnight). Gently remove the wool and submerge in cool water until the water is clear. Let as much water as possible drain from the wool and either place in a lingerie bag and hand spin (outside) to dry, or lay it in a sunny location until dry. Do not wring the wool out, because it may start to felt if you do!

Links to other articles/posts on home-made dyes:

2 thoughts on “More on natural wool dyes

  1. We bought a pound of saffron in Spain several years ago for about $20, so it’s not as bad as you think. And I recently learned that there are several US farmers trying to grow local saffron, so I’m hopeful that the price will come down for everyone soon!

  2. A tablespoon of saffron??? Holy cow, Juls! That’s got to be the most expensive ball of yarn ever!! 🙂

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