Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Natural Yarn Dyeing Tuestorial - Part One

As I mentioned in my Button Blog Post a couple weeks ago... my family is a crazy crafty bunch - I wouldn't have it any other way. And you'd think I would have learned my lesson with the button "situation" but I sparked another craft project that's quickly becoming a huge family project. Like Whoa.

Just over 2 months ago I was at Green Apple (my all time favorite SF book store) searching through the craft books. To be truthful, I need another craft book like I need a hole in my head, but I looked anyway and ended up picking up a book called Harvesting Color: How to Find Plants and Make Natural Dyes. The imagery is captivating in this book. I walked home while thumbing through this gorgeous book...only slightly tripped on the sidewalk a couple of times...no big deal.

I had my nose in the book the rest of that evening. Each chapter is organized by season...as in the season best to forage for that natural wild flower/plant. And each plant has AMAZING photos of the yarn after dying, the plants, a recipe for each plant dye and an illustrated chart which shows exactly where this plant might be located within the USofA.

I had been planning a road trip to Montana with my boyfriend at the time and I thought...self, let's go walk in the middle of the woods and pick up some supplies.

Just pick up some Supplies?! Not really as easy as that... but at the time I was just really excited about the concept that I could find natural dye on my own, and just POOF, dye something.

Really the process ended up being much more complicated than that. But for all of the work...Natural Hand Dying is possibly one of the most rewarding things you'll do.

Knowing that I couldn't do this on my own...I very "casually" gave my mom my book that I found.... "Hey Mom...thought you'd like this... maybe we can go pick some plants while we're in Montana this summer". I handed the book to her with pages already marked of all things found in Nevada, Idaho and Montana since that's where our trip would be taking us.

The next thing I knew, my mom had called me to say that she'd been to her favorite store in Oakland to obtain the first part of the materials we needed. The game was afoot and before I knew it we had all that we needed to dye yarn on our vacation. Yes, a vacation isn't really a vacation in my family unless we have a serious family project.

1 - Gather Materials Needed
2 - Prepare the Yarn for Dying
3 - Forage for Supplies
(Okay, you could do this with step #1, but I separated it out into it's own section)
4 - Preparing the Dye/Extracting Color from Materials
5 - Dyeing the Yarn
6 - Finishing Touches & Tips

STEP ONE: Gathering Materials Needed
Strainer (small one (around 6" across) will work well for this)
A Wooden Spoon
Measuring Utensils, like cups and spoons
Small Kitchen Scale
Rubber Gloves
Plant Materials (foraged)
At least 2 Large Stainless Steal Stock Pots - and I mean LARGE

STEP TWO: Preparing your Yarn for Dying

First, you gotta remove the oil from the fiber. For 1 pound of raw wool: fill 3-4 gallons of water in a pot with detergent (like Dawn). Put the wool in and slowly simmer for 45 minutes. After cooling your yarn, be sure to rinse it as well. This will help to make sure you have no contaminants in your yarn.

In order to bring the most life out of the color you'll be dying your yarn, you should likely consider using a Mordant first on your yarn to make sure the yarn takes the color. Using one of your large stock pots (marking it as your Mordant Pot so you don't cross contaminate later), you want to fully submerge and soak your yarn for the time stated within the recipe you've chosen. Mordants are needed to set the color when using natural dyes. Different mordants will give different results.

Alum: (Aluminum Potassium Sulfate)
This is the most widely used mordant. Be careful not to use too much with wool, otherwise you will get a sticky feeling that doesn't come out.
Solution is 4 oz. Alum to 1 oz. cream of tartar.

Consulting a book like the book I mentioned above will teach you the differences between the multiple mordants that you can chose. Your local yarn supply store should carry some mordant or be able to guide you in the right direction.

STEP THREE - Forage for Supplies

What's funny is that when I first thought of doing this...I thought this was the bulk of what you would be doing...and in reality, preparing your yarn takes MUCH longer than the actual foraging. OK...so maybe I got lucky. My cabin sits in a mountain by a lake...we had 3 different types of plants that were running a muck up in the mountains of Montana. If you're a city girl...you might want to consider a short road trip for some of the materials you'll need for this...or you can get some natural dye from your local yarn shop and skip this step all together.

This was by far my favorite part of the process. After reading and practically drooling over that Natural Yarn Dye Book...we had already found that there was lots of Goldenrod and Sage to dye from.

By the time I got up to Montana with my boyfriend, my parents had already found a field about a mile away from our cabin that was speckled with goldenrod wild flowers. The recipe called for basically a whole stock pot full of flowers... knowing that we wanted to do a couple rounds of dye with this plant material... each of us gathered around half a bag full of flowers. Additionally...we did keep in mind that it would be better for the plant if we didn't snip off all of the flowers so that we weren't hurting the environment around us.

I hope I left you in suspense!
Because of the complexity of this project, I have written this blog entry in two parts. Part Two will come next Tuesday the 6th of September and will consist of steps 4-6... stay tuned for more amazing results!

If you're an Etsy seller in the San Francisco Bay Area, contact Jen from Mama's Magic Studio about joining SFEtsy!


nerd JERK said...

Whoa! This is so exciting!!! Being someone who works with yarns, I'm TOTALLY loving all your attention to detail! Great pics and I'm stoked to find out more about the rest of your process.

Jen (Mama's Magic Studio) said...

This is AWESOME AWESOME! (Awesome Blossom!) Love this and I am very much looking forward to the next installment. Fascinating! and i love that this was a family project :-)

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