Solar Dye with Me! How to dye yarn with plants and the sun…

by Isabella

Posted on August 19, 2022

Come solar dye yarn with me! Solar dyeing is using the sun’s heat, and in this instance some natural plant materials to dye yarn. I naturally dyed a whole bunch of yarns in a bunch of colors with plants from my yard, scraps from my kitchen and SUNSHINE! I’ll walk you through how to get started with solar natural dyeing- what you’ll need, tips and tricks, and some ideas of where to find amazing botanical colors!

Wanna come along for the adventure? Check out my solar dye vlog, part 1…

For the rest of the dye adventure, including the day by day, cleaning the yarns, the reveal of all the colors, and what I learned, stay tuned for PART TWO coming next Friday, August 26th 2022!

Additional resources:

What you’ll “need” or might want to get started solar dyeing:

*some of these links are affiliate links, meaning that at no extra cost to you, if you click through and purchase I receive a small commission!

Some undyed yarn. I was using skeins I got from Knomad Yarns and Wool2Dye4, but you could also check out KnitPicks Bare yarns or DyerSupplier. They are all pretty affordable, especially if you get some bulk packs! And some of them have variety packs and discount lots!

Regardless of what you choose for a yarn source, you’ll want it to be an animal-based fiber, like a wool or an alpaca content. I believe you can also do cellulose/plant bases like cotton or bamboo, but I am not familiar with that process, so if you’re following me alone on this process, stick with the wools, silks, alpacas etc! I was working with 75/25 and 70/30 Superwash Merino/Nylon bases. Superwash will yield more vibrant colors than non-superwash bases. Just steer clear of something that is a manmade fiber like acrylic (but blends may work!), as it won’t absorb dye!

A mordant, like Citric Acid (I actually prefer this Non-GMO kind!) powder. You could also play around using vinegar, if you already have some regular white vinegar on hand! Or you could try Alum (I wasn’t certain while filming, but you can get food grade! Apparently it’s actually a great option, and produces great, color-fast vibrant colors!) as well.

And more on mordants… I didn’t pre-mordant mine, as I was going for color variation and was okay with wild skeins. But if you want evener tones, pre-mordanting, or at least pre-soaking your yarn and putting it in wet will help a lot to get even color distributions!

Some lidded glass jars. Most of mine are either fun sizes of thrifted jars or quart sized canning jars, but you can grab different sizes here too: quarts, half gallons, gallons… Mine had mostly metal lids, but plastic is great to avoid them rusting outside!

Dye stuff. This is where it gets FUN. As long as as it ain’t poisonous or lethal to handle, you can really play around here. I was working with pokeweed berries, sensitive fern spores, phlox, hydrangeas, marigolds, red onion skins, rudbeckia, and ornamental japanese maple, but the possibilities are endless. Some favorites for easy natural dyeing are coffee or tea, turmeric, avocado pits, black beans, onion skins, red cabbage, berries, marigolds, hollyhocks, hibiscus, and beets. But again, that’s just the beginning! If you’re interested in dyeing with a specific plant in your garden, but are unsure try googling “natural dye with ____.” Or google for how to get a specific color using what plants/materials that may be available to you in your area!

And if you want to get really precise and/or hope to replicate results later, you may want to weigh your dye stuff quantities on a kitchen scale first and jot down your “recipe”. But there was no such precision here (but I do love a good kitchen scale for yarn calculations! More on that here!)

A sunny spot! Get these yarn babies out in the sun and let them do their thing!

Other helpful supplies may include some rubber gloves for the messier bits, and some sort of a tag system to either label your jars or label the yarns as you hang them up to dry or store them later!

For the rest of the dye adventure, including the day by day, cleaning the yarns, the reveal of all the colors, and what I learned, stay tuned for PART TWO coming next Friday, August 26th 2022!

For some more ideas and tips on Solar Dyeing and extracting colors from plants/natural materials, I found these posts helpful as well!

*Kissed by the Sun: the Art of Solar Dyeing

*Fiber Curious: A Tutorial on Solar Dyeing with Plants

*A Beginners Guide to Natural Dyes

botanical dyeing , natural dyeing , solar dyeing , yarn dyeing

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