Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Autumn Means It's Time For Plant Dyes

Fall weather is finally here and that means it's time pull out the dye pots and go foraging for dye plants. This just makes me so happy! It's something I wanted to do when I was a kid but I never pulled it together. The only yarn I knew about came from Bradlees and was acrylic so it wouldn't work. Maybe that's why I get so much satisfaction from plant dyeing now, it's an old desire fulfilled. This batch of dyes was my best yet and I think that some of the credit goes to the wonderful yarn I got from Potluck Yarn during their Labor Day sale. I got a ten pack of the super sock dk and I love it. All the skeins were premordanted with alum and cream of tartar. I watched the heat carefully and simmered the dye, never boiling it and left the skeins to cool in the pot overnight. Left to right they are: goldenrod blossoms, goldenrod and bedstraw exhaust baths mixed, autumn olive leaves, polypore mushroom off an oak tree, sumac berries, bedstraw root 1st, 3rd and 2nd bath, and maple leaf viburnum berries. I had come across a mention online that the autumn olive, which is an invasive species, was brought here as a dye source and that it would produce an olive green dye. I got a very nice rich gold but adding copper or iron might turn it olive. I'm not sold on the idea that it was imported for dye purposes. I believe it was for erosion control and ornamental value. In any event, it's made itself at home and we'll never see the end of it. I like the idea of finding uses for invasive plants. The berries also make an excellent jam. If you like strawberry rhubarb pie, you'll like autumn olive jam. The navy blue skein was dyed with maple leafed viburnum berries. I checked online but found nothing about using them for dyes but I can't imagine I'm the first person to try it. I need to get back out and pick some more!


Diane said...

Hi Lydia, I too have just been looking for internet mention of using blue berries from viburnum, I used Arrowwood viburnum, but just recently picked some of the Maple leaf variety. I have not found any real useful info. I can not believe that this dye is unknown. Perhaps it is very fugitive and not worth it? I would love to find out more.
Diane Christian of Felt Inspiration

Jody Bishel said...

Hi Diane! I have a feeling that the viburnum dye will hold up. No evidence yet to back it up but it seems to be such a powerful dye. The color doesn't lean toward magenta, in fact that color stays in the dye bath. It's weird, I'll lift out a pale blue from the used up bath and what's left is pinkish. I'm willing to accept it if the color fades to more of a gray. I have some pokeberry dyed wool from years ago. The magenta is gone but it's still a strong rusty red. I'll post about any changes as they occur.