Back on the Horse

It’s been a while since I was around the dye pot. But Sunday night I found a long-lost skein of yarn hiding in on of the crannies of my stash. It was part of a skein of crystal palace something-or-other (I’m pretty sure it has cotton in it, and maybe bamboo) that I started making minis out of last summer. I had been dyeing them and using them for the blanket.

I’ve been gathering dyestuffs since I first started learning how to dye fiber naturally. That being said I had enough onion skins, dried dandelions flowers, and dried sour grass ( Wood Sorrel is what I consider “sour grass” but there are a few different plants that people call by this name.) to dye the remainder of the yarn into nice variegated skeins. I was sorely tempted to use some off the left-over coffee grounds I have been saving but abstained. I decided three colors was enough.

Monday I mordanted the yarn using alum and cream of tartar. I’ve used alum before but not cream of tartar. It made me a little nervous but I decided that, for once in my life, I would follow the directions.

While the yarn was simmering I whipped up a batch of onionskin dye. I just put some of the skins in a glass jar and poured some boiling water in over top. The affect was instantaneous.


After having so many dyes not produce much or any color (I’m looking at you birch bark) it gratifying to see color, especially the color that developed as I let it sit over night.



The next day I made the other dyes and let them sit for most of the day.


The dandelion dye just starting

That evening I I tried laying the yarn out and using a syringe to try and stripe the yarn. The onion skins worked wonderfully, the dandelions moderately well and the sour grass, surprisingly, didn’t make any color on the yarn at all. I could see it in the jar but it refused to stick to the yarn.

Knowing that some battles aren’t worth it I put on another pot to boil and dump the contents of my dye jar across the road far enough away that my lazybones cat wouldn’t find it and eat it. When I returned the water was boiling merrily so I rinsed out the jar and dumped the still-damp coffee grounds my mother had been nice enough to save me into the jar and then the boiling on top.

As I was getting ready for bed I remember that I hadn’t ever actually put the yarn in the dyebath so I ran downstairs in my pajamas and quickly strained out the dyestuffs from the dyes. I positioned the jars next to each other and put 1/3 of both skeins in each color and promptly went to sleep.



Clutching my coffee cup and rubbing sleep out of my eyes Wednesday morning I stumbled out onto the porch to check the yarn.

 The one in front is coffee, the red is onion skins and the greenish is dandelions.

The one in front is coffee, the red is onion skins and the greenish is dandelions.

The colors had all adhered to the dyes dyes this time. I breathed a sigh of relief and at about lunchtime I took the yarn out and rinsed it. I left it to dry hanging on the pear tree out front until it started to rain. As it was mostly dry I hung it over the back of one of the chairs on our porch.

There was still dye in the jars though so that night I put it back in the jars to sit overnight again. This morning I pulled them out and, just as I’d been hoping, the dandelion and coffee dyes had continued to be absorbed and their colors were much stronger. I rinsed out the yarn and the jars and hung it up again on the pear tree.

The colors go coffee, dandelion, and onion skin. The white stripes are the 12% nylon fiber content

The colors go coffee, dandelion, and onion skin. The white stripes are the 12% nylon fiber content


After it dried I held the colors together and was rewarded with this.



Then I twisted both skeins up into mini adorableness.



The top one is the 30 yard one and the other one is the sixteen yard one. This has been my longest dyeing session and also the most successful. I can’t wait to get knitting!


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