Dyeing yarn with plants: A Year’s Worth of Natural Yarn Dyeing Adventures.
Posted on November 17, 2023
I have been hoarding up yarns from all my natural/botanical/plant dyeing and I am finally gathering them all up to share with you. I have had such a fun time playing around with found and foraged (be it outside, or in the grocery store!) plant items, hunting down and extracting their secret dye pigments from them.
There is actually a ton of science involved but I am just in it for the adventure and surprises. I am just fascinated by how much COLOR my Creator has hidden in natural just for the pure joy of it. It’s so fun to find a new-to-me dye source locally to me. Being able to combine my hobbies of fiber arts with my love of food growing/gardening and foraging is delightful.
So if you like pretty yarn, pretty plants or the idea of pretty plants turning into pretty yarns, come hang out with me for a bit and lets chat about my hoard of naturally dyed yarns! I’m so excited to share with you how I got all the colors – AND since this is entirely for my own fun and not a business, there are no secrets here!
And a warning: once you get started you may not stop.
If you accidentally find a passion or start a yarn business on my account, I am not sorry.
Wanna come along and actually dye some yarn together? Check out my previous solar dye vlog, part 1…
& part 2:
What you’ll “need” or might want to get started
*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 but you could also check out KnitPicks Bare yarns or Wool2Dye4,. 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 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 man-made fiber like acrylic (but blends may work!), as it won’t absorb dye! And cellulose fiber dyeing (cotton, linen, etc) is a whole different beast too.
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. There’s lots more science-y info out there on this than I am really able to offer here. Research mordanting yarns!
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. 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! (I am in Connecticut in the New England region of the USA.)
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!)
Other helpful supplies may include some rubber gloves for the messier bits, and some sort of a tag system to label the yarns as you hang them up to dry or store them later! I need to listen to my own advice more, cause I have a handful of mystery skeins now…
For some more ideas and tips on extracting colors from plants/natural materials and getting those colors to adhere to yarn, I have complied a little Natural Yarn Dyeing Inspiration playlist from other natural dyers that may help you get started. You might even have everything you need on hand, or readily available. Onion skins or avocado pits/skins are an EXCELLENT place to get started with natural dyeing.