Natural Dye Notebook: Late Summer through Early Fall

I’ve been continuing my natural dyeing experiments throughout the Fall and early Winter, and I have to say I’m pretty darn pleased with myself. There is something so fun about foraging for dye plants in my garden, neighborhood, and friend’s gardens, and I love seeing what colors turn up in the dye pot. While the results aren’t always what I expect, I’ve gotten quite a little color run of skeins going:

Natural Dye Gradient

From left to right, I’ve got Marigolds over heather grey wool, marigold over coleus on superwash wool (you can read more about both in this post), acorns on superwash yarn, acorns on non-superwash yarn, rose mallow (also known as hibiscus) on non-superwash yarn, and pokeberry on non-superwash yarn.

My most recent dye is the pokeberry, which was a lot of fun to harvest from my friends’ garden, but requires a much heavier ratio (25:1) than what I had on hand. I decided to proceed anyway. I’ll definitely be trying this again. The trickiest part for me was keeping it at temperature—if it boils, it will turn brown instead of red, and that was a challenge on my gas stove, even on the lowest setting. Next time, I’ll go for more volume and richer color with a higher dye ratio. This yarn is mordanted with vinegar as directed in Rebecca Burgess’ Harvesting Color book.

The acorn experiments I have mixed feelings about. The superwash yarn took the acorn dye very well, and I can’t tell if the non-superwash came out pale because it was second into the dye pot and the other had already exhausted all the dye, or if it’s just because it’s not superwash. I’m thinking of overdyeing it, but it’s so lovely in this lineup it may stay as is for a bit longer.

Rose mallow is hibiscus, and I was way, way underweight on quantity to get a good color, but it still changed to the softest, champagne pink. I waffle between being wildly in love with this result and feeling like I want to try again. I have only just found out that Japanese Maple also produces lovely colors in the purple pink range, and I’m tempted to try that. Unfortunately, a storm came and stole the leaves off of the local maples last week, so it will have to wait until next season.

I have a few more attempts on my list for wintertime, and I might even indulge in some purchases from Botanical Colors, an online retailer of dye goods. I do love the act of foraging for myself, though, and it’s helping me feel very confident in identifying plants!

Pokeberry natural dye