Aster and Marigold Dyeing

Undyed, Indigo dyed, and Aster-Marigold dyed handspun wool

Undyed, Indigo dyed, and Aster-Marigold dyed handspun wool

I’ve been getting really interested in hand dyeing fibres using natural dyes lately (totally blaming Morrigan with Adventures In Block Printing and Lauren from Black Sheep Handspvn for this one) and have been eyeing my backyard for dyestuffs…

With fall approaching, the Aster flowers and Marigolds in my backyard were starting to wilt… so they were prime targets for my first experiment…

Fresh aster flowers from my garden for dyeing

Fresh aster flowers

Now… I’ll start off with that I went about this ALL wrong.

I did scour my wool to begin with. That’s one checkmark.

From there… well….

I didn’t pre-mordant my fibre. I thought I had alum at home, but I didn’t. I wanted to play, and was prepared that I’d get less than desireable results.

I also didn’t weigh my dyestuffs or measure my water or weigh my wool to be able to record and figure things out in case I wanted to replicate this.

But here’s what I DID do….

Nearly-dead aster flowers for dyeing

Nearly-dead aster flowers

I picked aster flowers from my garden when they were dying, but not quite dead yet. Some were tossed into the dyepot with their green bits, some were just the petals. Some were quite dry, some were still quite bright and fresh. I used about a cup and a half of aster flowers.

Then I went to our little patch of marigold, and gathered up about another half a cup of marigold. Like the aster, some were fresh, some were drying. Some were yellow marigold, some were orange.

In previous years I’ve harvested the flowers for their seeds – but I have a whole jar of marigold seeds from previous years, so I wasn’t too worried about losing this opportunity for my dyepot. 

Marigold flowers from my garden, used for dying with along with aster flowers

Marigold flowers

I tossed them in with about 3 cups of filtered water and brought it to a boil, then reduced it down to a simmer for about an hour. While the dyepot was doing it’s thing, I scoured my wool.  (However, I used soda ash and dish soap instead of the paste-stuff the dye supplier online recommends… )  I used handspun singles of Grade A US  tops, which I bought from a shop just outside of Calgary before it closed. I spun the wool on the borrowed spinning wheel, not a drop spindle.

Once my dyepot had simmered for an hour or so, I strained out the petal-tea using a coffee filter, pouring the liquid (which had greatly reduced) into a pottery bowl. (And a glass bowl so I could see the colour – sort of an orange-brown…) I chose to strain the pot rather than dyeing the wool with the dyestuffs to avoid having to clean off little petals from the yarn.

While the dyestuffs simmered… the house smelled like marigold. Not really my favourite scent. 

… and now the wool goes in…

The liquid then went back on the stove, aided with about 4 cups of water, a teaspoon of salt, and the wool. I turned it back to simmer, and honestly didn’t have high hopes for the colour. It was a SUPER pale brown immediately in the pot, and I didn’t predict that the colour would change. I let it simmer for half an hour, at which point the colour hadn’t changed, and I let it sit in the dyepot to cool.

This time, while the dyepot simmered… the house smelled like wet dog… also not my favourite scent…

The photos above show the wet dyed wool in the dyebath, but also out of the dyebath with two different light sources – hence the different colour. The colour while it was wet was most similar to the more yellow sample.

Once the dyebath cooled, I poured the remaining liquid into jars to possibly use later, and rinsed the smaller shank of wool yarn to see how much colour I’d loose.

I lost next to NO colour between the dyeing and the rinsing! Even without a mordant!

The resulting colour however… was pretty… eh. While the wool was wet it was a buttery pale tan.  I’d hoped for a soft orange. I don’t think that mordanting the wool in advance would have made a difference.

From there, I hung the yarn up outside overnight to finish drying… Once the wool dried, I liked the colour a LOT more.

The dried wool yarn

Once the wool dried and I could see it in daylight – I liked it a LOT more. The finished colour is a yellow almost tilting towards green. Much less sand/tan/blond in daylight than in lamp light.

Undyed, Indigo dyed, and Aster-Marigold dyed handspun wool

Undyed, Indigo dyed, and Aster-Marigold dyed handspun wool

In the photo above I’ve displayed the Aster and Marigold dyed wool, along with handspun wool in the original undyed natural “white” colour, and then some indigo-dyed handspun wool.

The photo below was taken indoors at night, which totally tilts the colour – but it’s displayed along with madder-dyed handspun wool, and undyed wool again, which illustrates how much colour the wool picked up.

Madder dyed, undyed, and Aster-Marigold dyed handspun wool. This photo was taken inside at night - hence the change in colour based on the light.

Madder dyed, undyed, and Aster-Marigold dyed wool

About my dyestuffs

Maiwa Handprints shares information about working with their marigold dye, which consists of dried and ground flower heads. They state that this dye can yield vibrant yellows, green-yellows, and oranges. For their prepared dye, they state to use 20-30% of the dried marigold to the weight of the fabric (WOF), and state that it has moderate light and wash fastness.

Marigold flowers from my garden, used for dying with along with aster flowers

Marigold flowers

They recommend using alum “mordant at 15% WOF for protein fibres” and more steps for cellulose. Their instructions for use are “add the dried flowers to the dye pot, cover with water and simmer for half an hour to extract the colour. Strain the dye liquid and add to dye pot. Add fibres and simmer until the desired shade is achieved. With the addition of iron at 2% WOF warm olives can be made.” – Maiwa Handprints

Maiwa does not have Aster flower as a dye, although they do carry Eupatorium, which is from a Ageratina adenophora flower in the aster family. The Ageratina adenophora however is distinctly different from the aster flowers I used.

Natural Dyes and Home Dyeing by Rita J. Adrosko suggests that Aster, mordanted with chrome will yield a light greenish-yellow with good colour fastness. For one pound of wool, she recommends to use half a bushel of fresh aster flowers. (Page 71) She also discusses marigolds on Page 97.

Marigold and Aster flowers are both mentioned on the Sheepy Hollow Farm blog post on natural dyes, though the author does not include either in the ‘historically significant’ dyestuff section. However, both Finnish Nature Gate and A Primer for Natural Dyeing from The Vikings group include Marigold as a Viking-Age dyestuff.

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