Tag Archives: yellow

Safflower dyes

When I found I could get safflower seed… it was just too good to resist. So I grew safflowers.

Does this look thistle-y to you? Yes! They are spiny and they are a form of thistle. On the upside, they were more than up for the conditions of a South Australian summer garden.

Downside… the entire harvest of petals, yes, petals! was 3 g. After quite a lot of petal pulling… However, upside… ravening brushtail possums patrol our vegetable garden these days and they were not at all interested in the safflowers. Three cheers!

I experienced some confusion in my attempts to find instructions on how to extract dye from this plant. It famously gives more than one colour when you treat it right, but one book referred to flower heads while others referred to petals (I tried flower heads and gave up). Others explained the principle behind dye extraction but, I have never done this before and wanted something a little more like a recipe. In the end, I followed the Maiwa instructions, for which I am grateful!

I stitched the petals into a bag made from a double layer of cotton voile (leftover from handkerchief making, no less!). There was so much yellow dye in stage 1!

Changes came about as I soaked and re-soaked my precious petals.

Finally, the dye bath! Some magic with Ph, and then… In goes my cotton thread, which immediately takes on a pink tinge.

Until eventually I have both yellow-dyed silk thread and pink dyed cotton thread.

And, of course, seeds and seed heads.

But for a sumptuous film about how this could be done by far more skilled hands and heads (and with fields of safflowers to begin with)… watch this!


Filed under Dye Plants, Natural dyeing

Peach leaf dye

2014-07-19 10.58.09

It seems a long time since I was admiring the rather lovely green another dyer on Ravelry had achieved using peach leaves.  She sounded a little apologetic when she explained that the leaves she used had fallen–but I was delighted, since that meant we were both Australians, experiencing autumn at the same time–and my peach tree was also dropping its leaves too.  We moved here less than three years ago and planted about 8 fruit trees in the first autumn, so our trees are, as yet, on the small side and my leaf harvest was similarly small.  Then I became distracted.  It is now midwinter and those leaves have been hanging off a chair in the dyeing area in a calico bag since then.  They are now quite dry.

2014-07-19 11.45.20

Recently, I spent time bagging dried leaves, sweeping and cleaning up–and it seemed like the right time.  Into the pot they went with some of the lovely rain that has fallen lately.  It is always wonderful to be blessed with rain here.  The leaves gave a rather soft and beautiful yellow, which you can just about see through the steam in this picture.

2014-07-19 16.00.19

Now for the next step.  I added about 50 ml of copper water.  This jar sits in the garden along with my rusty iron water jar and a few other chemistry experiments.

2014-07-19 16.30.10

There was nothing of the dramatic change in colour I observed with the Choisya Ternata bath, which made me wonder if I added more copper water to that bath and had simply forgotten quantity.  I returned the heat to the dye pot and added another sample card.

2014-07-19 16.31.51

I tried longer heating and more copper water–and the dye itself turned greenish–but the wool hardly moved from yellow.  Perhaps fresh leaves next time?

2014-07-24 12.20.45


Filed under Dye Plants, Natural dyeing

Mock Orange–Choisya Ternata

Choisya Ternata (which I grew up hearing called ‘mock orange’) is appearing more and more as a hedge in my neighbourhood.  It looks very lush at this time of the year… leafy and green and just beginning to flower. Inspired by blog posts I’d read like Aqua and Flora and Debbie Herd, I ran a dyepot with no modifier and got a beautiful yellow. Then, I modified with copper water and obtained an olive green.


The effect of this addition was impressive, to say the least.

2014-06-23 10.57.48

This rated as one of the most delectably scented dye baths ever, and it is certainly one I’ll try again.



Filed under Natural dyeing, Neighbourhood pleasures

Natural dyeing workshop

I began the final stage of preparation for my natural dyeing workshop by packing the car to capacity the night before and steeping logwood and madder in hot water. These are more of the dyes that have been left at the Guild.  It seemed good to share them with other Guildies this way.

2014-06-12 16.20.18

I came through the parklands on my way to the Guild and stopped in homage to a few trees.  This one turned out to be E Tricarpa…

2014-06-14 08.32.52

The unpacking was quite a thing.  This is a view of the back seat of the car before unpacking.

2014-06-14 08.42.38

The steeped fermenting walnut hulls (another dyestuff left at the Guild) travelled in the front seat footwell, in a pot with a lid, in a big bucket in case of spills.  No spills.  Whew!! I put heat under them an hour before people arrived in hopes of getting it over with.  My friends, I will never do this again.  It may take me years to live down the smell this dye pot gave off!  At one point when a heater went on, someone told me they had found a dead mouse in the heater.  When I went to see, they were looking for a mouse they were sure must be in there because they could smell it.  Cough!  The women who were rostered on in the Little Glory Gallery in another part of the Guilds premises exclaimed.  So did the treasurer, who came in to work on the books and was similarly appalled.  Eventually walnut tailed off and a eucalyptus bark dyepot began to prevail.  The smell of natural dyeing had people who had come to the gallery wanting to come and see what we were doing all day!  I give you the walnut hulls I will be living down at the Guild for years to come.  They produced an inky dye.  Truly impressive.

2014-06-14 09.08.23

I set up a bit of a display table of yarns and knits, leaf prints, tea cosies, sample cards and books.

2014-06-14 09.41.47

People had their first go at India Flint’s eco-print technique.  Some had read the book but never tried it.  I don’t know how people can resist!  The Guild has a copper which had been repaired because we were planning to use it.  Use it we did!

2014-06-14 11.08.32

My Mum deadheaded her African marigolds for me through summer and they made a great yellow.

2014-06-14 13.42.52

I tried grinding the soaked madder in a blender as Rebecca Burgess suggests (the second hand blender was pretty challenged) and here it is in the dye bath, in its own stocking… we got some lovely reds.

2014-06-14 13.43.07

I used one of the bottles of pre-ground cochineal that had appeared in the dye room cupboard.  The colour was entirely startling!

2014-06-14 14.20.01

There was a pot of logwood that came out so deep it was virtually black.  There was a pot of E Scoparia bark that gave some burgundy on the first round and some tan for a skein added in later.  There was an E Scoparia leaf pot and an E Cinerea leaf pot–oranges of different shades.  The dye room at the Guild has four gas burners as well as the copper–so we went wild.

The wonder of unwrapping eco print bundles never wears thin!

2014-06-14 15.07.14

I used the opportunity of being at Beautiful Silks in March to acquire organic wool as well as silk noil twill and some silky merino for this workshop.  E Cinerea did its wonderful thing.

2014-06-14 15.07.21

And so did human imagination…

2014-06-14 15.07.35

The string print on the upper right of this next image was a lovely surprise…

2014-06-14 15.07.51

It was overcast and the results of the dye vats which were the focus of the day are seen here in all their glory drying in the Guild car park! These are eucalyptus and logwood.

2014-06-14 15.11.00

These are cochineal, madder and marigold.  I had mordanted some silk paj in alum and taken it along.  I tried eco printing it years ago and didn’t think much of the results.  Wendi of the Treasure suggested jewellery quality string (which sounds very promising to me), so I’d been planning to eucalypt dye them–but took this opportunity to expand my palette.  The silk went orange in the madder bath even though wool in the same bath was much more red–still good.

2014-06-14 15.11.40

People made their own series of test cards too.

2014-06-14 15.21.44

It was a day of happy experimentation, I think, the smell of fermented walnut hulls fighting it out with stewed eucalyptus bark notwithstanding.  The people who came were friendly, warm and generous–a delight to be among.  It was a treat to be in the company of other people who are fascinated by eucalypts and by the dye possibilities of plants. Folk were talking about what they might do with their cloth and how they might approach their neighbourhoods differently…  I hope that for at least some it will be the start of an exciting new journey.  By the end of the dye I was deeply weary.  I took the logwood, madder and cochineal baths home with me (after taking suitable precautions against spillage) and began some exhaust dye baths next day.  But by late afternoon I was down to twining silk string mindlessly and happily…

2014-06-14 15.21.07


Filed under Leaf prints, Natural dyeing

The unbearable cuteness of stranded colour knitting


After all the three-ply colour spinning there has been around here, I started to itch to use those colours in knitting. I settled on these, the Tingvoll slippers by Kristin Spurkland. I began them before I went to Melbourne in March.  I found that knitting them over breakfast in  a cafe in Melbourne triggered a conversation every single day, and usually with another keen knitter.  It made me feel right at home, even though I was far from home and essentially, I was in the cafe because there was nothing for breakfast in the cupboard where I was staying!

Even the soles are cute.


I knit these in Corriedale.  Yes, Malcolm the Corriedale.  The orange is dyed with eucalyptus, and the yellow with my mother’s coreopsis flowers.  While I was in Melbourne, I found myself frustrated by how slowly it was all going and how hard I was finding it to read the charts.  In the learning zone I was in spending my whole day at a workshop–I started to explore.  By the time I was flying home I had found that I could knit withe one colour in each hand–picking the yellow (‘European style’ as some call it here–yarn in the left hand) and throwing the orange (‘English style’, as some call it here–yarn in the right hand).  Best of both worlds!  I love that phenomenon: learning one new thing opens the doors to learning others.  Delightful.


They are smaller than I had hoped, which just shows I settled on this wool and this pattern with no real thought for sizing and not much attention to the instructions.  Clearly it would be a good idea for me to quit spinning finer than I like to knit!  I think they are destined for a small child of my acquaintance.  She is a fine appreciator of hand knits.  Her Dad says when he told her I might be knitting her slippers, she was ‘beside herself!’ Apparently she likes the felted clogs I knit him so much she tries them on a lot, even though he has some of the largest feet I’ve ever knit for…


Filed under Knitting, Natural dyeing

Spinning up a storm. And some more newspaper.

I am continuing to ply the holiday spinning, but this is the last of it… This coreopsis-dyed yellow yarn has been waiting patiently for weeks.  The eucalyptus-dyed yarn is a new spin.


Of course, there is more eucalyptus-dyed corriedale spun on holiday and plied recently.  I elected to keep the two shades distinct.  When I began dyeing I preferred dyeing yarn and was afraid to dye fleece.  Now I prefer to dye the fleece, because it gives me so much choice when it comes to spinning (and I have learned a few things about controlling the temperature of the dye bath to avoid felting).


I also decided that I could probably refine my newspaper spinning skills, and you know, I think I have!  It’s possible to coax the newspaper strips into a tube as you spin, and I like the effect better.  I think I also succeeded in creating a lower twist single that still holds together.  More fun than I had ever expected…



Filed under Natural dyeing, Spinning

What to do with silk cocoons 1: Spin the blaze!

One of my more knowledgeable friends (who loves working with silk) told me that the loose fluffy fibres around a silk cocoon–where the silkworm was just getting started on anchoring themselves in space and creating a scaffolding for the eventual cocoon–is called the ‘blaze’. She was planning to try spinning the blaze–and I decided to follow her example.  I had never seen this feature of a silk cocoon before growing my own.  I guess it is removed or destroyed when cocoons are dyed or prepared for sale.  But this puffy little cloud of fibre is rather lovely.


I tried spinning it by just drafting it away from the cocoons.


This sometimes meant several cocoons were caught up in my drafting, and occasionally one was dangling in mid-air, hanging from a filament so slender as to be invisible.


Here are the cocoons, now without their blaze.


And here is the resulting tiny three-ply skein with some cocoons for scale.


It’s pretty but tiny!



Filed under Fibre preparation, Spinning

Silkworms: 7 week update + more wild textured spinning

Well, here are the late bloomers. Yes, only 5 left.


Everyone else is in here now in another form…


And meanwhile I decided to try a spinning challenge set up on Ravelry… a yarn generator based on a date system.  What genius on the part of its originator! Sounded like fun to me… I put in the date for my birthday and that meant creating a yarn that incorporated autowrapping (see that rayon thread over the white section?), metallic elements (there are strange and peculiar glitter pompoms from the op shop as well as sparkly gold fibre and gold recycled ribbon)…


Yellow is required too, so there is some of the coreopsis dyed corriedale, some yellow preloved ribbon (there has to be fabric spinning too), and last year’s silk cocoons…


Then there is chain plying and the ever present eucalyptus dyed merino… and one mighty strange yarn overall!



Filed under Fibre preparation, Spinning

Indigo vat with colour run remover

I am a bit intimidated by indigo.  Perhaps I have just made it a major performance each time I have attempted it so far–overreach is a superpower I have in spades.  But the temperature maintenance, chemistry, my lack of experience and (in the case of the hydrosulphite vat) my aversion to the chemicals involved, all make me wary.  Anyway, I overcame my reluctance and ran a vat last weekend.  I made an assessment of the fleece I might dye –in varying states of yellowness and natural whiteness (with a little tan), corriedale and polwarth.


The quiescent vat has been dormant since January, since I failed to make a successful fermentation vat using ambient summer temperatures. It has only been waiting 10 months for resurrection!  It contained madder and bran as well as indigo due to its first life as a potential fermentation vat, so the night before,  I sieved out all the larger particles remaining rather than have them distributed throughout my already less than pristine fleece.


I wetted out my fleece and some brown polwarth slippers in readiness.


The vat was a far more exciting colour after warming and the addition of colour run remover.


I had read Vivien Prideaux and Jenny Dean in preparation and realised some guesswork would be required. How much colour run remover?  How much could I hope to dye? Just the same, this is the second half of this vat I have managed to render useable by this method, another reason to think I should give up being intimidated and get on to practising fermentation methods.  Perhaps, just like sourdough bread, it isn’t as delicate as you might think at first–even if time needs to be on your side. It was very reassuring to see that telltale yellow-green colour appear under the surface on my silk embroidery thread.


Some of the yellow fibre going into the indigo:


And afterward, while still wet. Some of the greens will be quite emerald when they are dry, I think, but the paler yellows became blue rather than green.


The white fleece became many shades of blue in a very satisfying way that will let me create graduated yarns.  Here it is, going into the vat:


Here it is still wet but rather gloriously blue…


The slippers took up blue where they were white or pale purple from the tail end of a logwood exhaust bath, but took virtually no colour on the brown parts, which is to say, most parts.  It may be that the vat was exhausted–not completely, or the pale parts would not have taken up colour–but sufficiently that no colour change showed up on the brown.  It may also be that they were greasy enough to repel the dye somewhat and that so much wet fleece having entered it, the vat was diluted.  So I have kept the vat aside for another day or a new thought on the matter.

Meanwhile, there has been a breakout of the urge to spin silk and enter the cocoon…  But not for every single silkworm, and the ones that remain are SO HUNGRY!  So now I am off to look for a mulberry tree in the parklands I heard about on the weekend…



Filed under Fibre preparation, Natural dyeing

Yellows from coreopsis flowers and osage orange

I have decided to branch out from the eucalyptus based palette of ochre–caramel–tan–orange–red–maroon I have been so focused on for the last while and plan toward an indigo vat.  Don’t you love these bold statements?

I still love the eucalypt colours: here, a small quantity of alpaca passing through various stages of preparation.  Picked, dyed locks;


Partially carded batt;


and, finally, yarn–pictured in the dyer’s chamomile patch.


I have decided to try for yellow–green–blue transitions, which will necessarily begin with yellow.  I had coreopsis flowers my mother saved me one summer, as she deadheaded her plants. This collection of flower heads speak to me of her love and her fine qualities as a gardener and a person who loves to share.  I had reservations about the colour I would get from them, as some had gone mouldy.  Her -plants are just so prolific–the stack of wilted heads had trapped enough moisture to create mould.


I also had a little remaining quantity of osage orange shavings of antiquity, gifted to me from the Guild.


I prepared them both for the dyebath, but have to say my tea ball was not a good enough receptacle to retain the osage orange.  I not only sieved the dye vat before adding wool (thank goodness I remembered to do this as I tackled it one night when the amount of sawdust in the vat was not as obvious as in the clear light of day) but also placed the whole tea ball in another fine cloth bag before running an exhaust bath.


Even after the first bath of each dye, there was a lot of colour left, so I ran an exhaust bath and dyed a total of about 800g of white corriedale.  I was especially impressed with the amount of colour and the wonderful smell of the coreopsis bath.  I need not have worried about the mould.  Here is the coreopsis bath between dyeings.


The resulting yellows are lovely.  On the left, coreopsis bath 1, then coreopsis bath 2, osage orange bath 1 and osage orange bath 2.  The coreopsis yellows are quite buttery and golden and the osage orange colours are a little more lemony.  And, there is further evidence that grass seeds and other vegetable matter take dyes quite well!  Now, to build up my courage for the indigo stage and some greens and blues.



Filed under Dye Plants, Eucalypts, Fibre preparation, Natural dyeing