Natural dyeing – Lupine

Beautiful green handspun wool dyed with Lupine flowers

Beautiful green handspun wool dyed with Lupine flowers

It seems like greens are difficult to get with natural plant dyes, so when I read that green (even bright acid green!) could be obtained with Lupine flowers, I wanted to try it.

We have had lupine growing in our backyard for years – the flowers seem to be a favourite of bees, and they are a dramatic, beautiful, colourful flower. I read on The Easy Blues that lupine is originally a North American plant, though I remember being in Vantta, Finland and seeing vast fields full of them… they self-seed, and the seed pods POP sending the seeds all over the place, so apparently there they’re almost treated like a very pretty weed.

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Natural dyeing – Wood Ash Lye modifier

testing the pH of my wood ash lye - about a 12

testing the pH of my wood ash lye – about a 12

In all of the natural dyeing I’ve been doing (or hoping to do!) in the last little while, I read a little about using wood ash as a dye modifier. In Rebecca Burgess’ Harvesting Colour: How to find plants and make natural dyes, she notes that wood ash can be used interchangeably with soda ash to create an alkali after bath. In reading about fermentation dyeing, wood ash lye also came up, and further it came up in my experiment with my first woad harvest.

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Natural dyeing – Rhubarb

Rhubarb dyed and mordanted wool, along with untreated wool

Rhubarb dyed and mordanted wool, along with untreated wool

Rhubarb leaf mordant

Along with chemical mordants like aluminum, copper, and iron, Jenny Dean also notes the use of staghorn sumac leaves, and oak galls as possible sources of natural mordants in Wild Colour: The complete guide to making and using natural dyes. These are rich in tannin she notes, which helps colour adhere and increases light and wash-fastness on vegetable fibres.

However, since I am LOVING spinning wool (and didnt’ love spinning hemp or flax that much in comparison) I really was interested to read about her recommendation for protein fibers – rhubarb leaves.  Continue reading

Natural dyeing – Iron dye modifier

Wool, silk, and linen pre-mordanted with oak galls, and then modified with iron

Wool, silk, and linen pre-mordanted with oak galls, and then modified with iron

Iron as a pre-mordant

In all of the natural dyeing I’ve been doing (or hoping to do!) in the last little while, I read a little about using iron as a pre-mordant instead of alum. In Rebecca Burgess’ Harvesting Colour: How to find plants and make natural dyes, she notes that while alum is used for most of recipes in her book, iron is useful in several.

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Natural dyeing – Oak Galls

Green oak galls

Green oak galls

I’ve read about oak galls and their place in dyeing and ink-making a little, and didn’t think too much of them – I don’t really think of oak trees in Calgary (compared to trips to Louisiana!) but while out for a walk (playing PokemonGo!) I noticed that one of the parks near me had cute little (young) oak trees. A closer look… and there were the weird clustered balls.

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