85) C is for…

Coreopsis!  And chrome!


I picked up this skein at the North East Textiles open day in Danby, a couple of weekends ago.  I did significant portions of my growing up in Lealholm, which is next door to Danby, in terms of Yorkshire villages, so it was lovely to go and visit my 'home turf' and be textiley.

I bought this skein at least in part because I'm unlikely ever to use chrome as a mordant myself.  It's nasty, nasty stuff and no fun to dispose of.  And also because it was lovely to see such a vibrant, rich colour from natural dyes.  Note to self: plant Coreopsis tinctoria next year.

I think C might also be for challenge.  I 'did' NaNoBloPoMo a couple of years back, and I'm not that keen on doing it again, but I think I might be up for AlphaBetaBloPoMo.  One post per letter of the alphabet, to finish within one month of starting (so a few days off then).  No need to restrict it to November- pick your own month!  No need to start it on the first of the month, either.  Anyone else joining in?



Top row, left to right:  Undyed yarn; day lilies; dock roots; alder cones

Bottom row: Laurel berries, without then with vinegar; elder leaves, without then with iron.

I’m delighted with the results I’ve had here; the day lily sample will probably be overdyed as it is a very pale peachy colour, and probably not lightfast, but I love the other colours.

I think the cherry laurel berries *without* vinegar and the elder leaves with iron are my favourites.  I love that dark green colour anytime, and the

Elder leaves, alum and COT, no iron:


Clear, bright yellow, very even

Elder leaves, alum and COT, with iron:


Wonderful rich, khaki green; one of my most favourite colours!

Cherry laurel berries, alum and COT, no vinegar:


Loads of subtle colours in this skein; blue, brown, grey, almost a lilac.  Check out the close-up; it’s really worth it!

Cherry laurel berries, alum and COT, with vinegar:


Much bluer than the no-vinegar sample, much less brown.  Doesn’t show particularly well in the photo!!  The two cherry laurel skeins are relatively uneven in their dye uptake, doubtless because they were never simmered and just had to sit in the confines of a jar with the dye liquor.  Still, I love the semi-solid effect!

Alder cones:


I poured boiling water over last year’s dry cones and left them for a week or two (I think).  Then I strained off the dye liquid and put it back into a jar with the yarn (unmordanted, as there is supposed to be plenty of tannin in these things).  I left the lot for another couple of weeks.  I got a wonderful warm brown!

Dock leaves/roots:

Another one that’s supposed to be fine without a mordant.  Again, I let the vegetable matter stew for a while then added the yarn.  This one got really, really, really smelly.  Nice colour, though.

All on superwash sock wool!


OK, perhaps bordering on the obsessional now.

This is my lunch of a few days ago:


Not the most appetising to look at, I know, and I’m not going to win prizes for food photography any time soon, but…  See how pink the rice is?  It turned that colour after being introduced to some kale that had been cooked with some very, very tangy yoghurt.  I don’t remember buttered kale being pink.

So maybe, kale is another one of those things that produces surprising dye-colours in the presence of acid?  I may have to test this theory next time the veggie box includes kale…

Canning season

Yarn canning, that is!  I’m using Kilner jars for various stages in some yarn dyeing experiments using natural dyes.  This is something I’ve never done before, but I’ve been meaning to do for *ages*.  Seriously ages – and then, the Online Guild had a workshop on natural dyeing in June, which I all but missed1, and I’ve just about gotten around to it now.


All the yarn I’m using in the above photo is undyed Opal superwash wool sock yarn, and has been mordanted with 10% alum and 5% cream of tartar.  From left to right, we have:

  • Day-lily with no additions
  • Elder leaf with no additions
  • Elder leaf with added iron (after simmering)
  • Cherry laurel berries with added vinegar
  • Cherry laurel berries without vinegar

The day lily I think will fail; I might get a very soft peachy colour out of it, but I have no idea if it will be fast or not, and it will not be very much darker than the original yarn.  I’m not bothered; this was pure experiment and the yarn can always be dyed again.

The elder leaf batches are the only ones which have actually been simmered in the dye bath.  Both were dyed in the same bath and, once cooled, transfered to the jars to keep for a while.  In the third jar, I added the iron to the dye liquor and dissolved it, then added the yarn to the pot.  The colour change from yellow to green was very impressive, and immediate.

I decided to experiment with the cherry laurel berries after the daft dog tried to eat one (they’re poisonous), and in retrieving it, it left a wonderful red stain on my fingers that turned to blue.  The leaves and the berries of this plant contain cyanide, so I am unwilling to simmer them indoors.  I just crushed the berries (with my hands, wearing gloves) and poured boiling water over them and left them.  When I opened the jar again today, there was a very noticeable (and worryingly delicious) almond smell, so I think my caution is worthwhile.  When dyeing with berries, vinegar is supposed to accentuate the ‘red’ tones and minimise the ‘blue’.  In this photo, the blue/red balance appears to be the other way around, but it is definitely noticeable that the dye take-up is much, much greater in the bath with the vinegar added.  If I can rig up an outdoor heating area in the next week or so, I will give both of these batches a proper simmer for maximum dye extraction/transfer.

I think I have some very colourful socks on the horizon.  But not poisonous.  I hope.



1 I did get around to doing a *little* dyeing for the June workshop, though mostly in July.  I must blog about that sometime.  It was very smelly.

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