Monday, 6 October 2008

Dyed with home-grown nettles

We have a large garden where there's spaces for interesting weeds to lurk. This means I can always find useful dye plants, such as nettle, dock and bramble.

Early this summer I dyed some Shetland wool tops with nettles from the garden. I have learnt by this experience and consequent advice from more experienced dyers that if you put combed wool tops in the dye bath they felt a bit. Oops!

Fortunately this was an inconvenience rather than a disaster. I had to tease the wool apart with my fingers, then I used hand carders to get the wool ready to spin.

I'm very pleased with this yarn. You can probably tell it is not the best, most evenly spun yarn, but it's not too bad and certainly good enough for it's intended use in a knitted hat to wear for gardening in the winter. I'm thinking of using some other natural dyed yarn colours and natural black Shetland for contrast.

I mixed the two colours on the carders, they aren't totally blended as I wanted a marled yarn. rather than a blended shade. The mordant in the original dye bath, to get the yellow, was alum (10%) and cream of tartar (8%). Then, after removing half the wool I added a pinch of iron to modify the colour and give green.

I wish I'd had more time for using natural dyes this summer, but summer was gone before the sun came out this year and many garden things did not get done.


Barbara Blundell said...

Hi Dorothy,
Wondered where you were. You must have been nettle gathering. The results look good. It's spun into an interesting yarn-think green is always a bit chancey but this has worked out well. Look forward to seeing the hat

Lesley said...

Hi Dot,
How did you prepare the nettles? Were they pre or post flowering? I haven't had time to do nettle dyeing this year but an determined to do it next. Trouble is - I have to get to them before the goats do!!!

Dorothy said...

Nettle preparation - went up the garden with gloves on and a bucket, cut a good bunch of nettles at all stages of development, some with flowers, some young plants, chopped them up a bit to make them fit in the bucket, then left them to soak in cold water for 24 hours.

I wish I could recall the dyeing process. I've just remembered that I didn't write it down. I've always kept careful notes in the past. I suppose I didn't because I have learnt with nettles that they give lots of good colour and that the dye proved in my tests last summer to be very lightfast.

I think one reason why the yarn turned out nicely is that the yellow and green colours are very complimentary.

Helen said...

Lovely subtle colours. If you want to dye tops or rovings do the dyeing over 12 hours very slowly and rinse very carefully by just submerging the tops in water and then allowing to drain.

dorie said...

I like the way you have documented this dye-results. Very informative, thanks Dorie