One of my knitting new years resolutions was to finally try natural dyeing and this weekend I finally took the plunge and gave it a go. I don’t know why I waited so long to do it, it was so much fun and I am officially hooked! I’ve been going through my stash and frantically ordering more bare yarn so I can keep trying different things!

For these two skeins I tried to keep it fairly simple seeing as it was my first time and used turmeric for my first one and red cabbage for the second. Turns out natural dyeing is pretty simple, there are just 4 steps to follow:

  1. Scour your wool. All this means is to wash your wool to get the oils and lanolin out. I soaked both skeins in warm water with washing up liquid for 2 hours then rinsed them in cool water.
  2. Create a mordant. In order for the dye to attach itself to your wool and be colour fast you must simmer your wool in a mordant. There are loads of different things to use here. After some research on the internet I saw a lot of people recommended alum and cream of tartar as it was safest and gave the brightest results so I figured this was a good place to start. I dissolved 8g of alum and 7g of cream of tartar per 100g skein in boiling water and added it into my dye pot with enough water to completely cover my wool. I added the wool and simmered for 1 hour then rinsed it in clean water.(IMPORTANT: always rinse your wool in the same temperature of water it just came out of, meaning if you rinse straight after the hour carefully rinse in hot water. If you leave your wool to cool first rinse it in cool water. Dramatic temperature changes can cause the wool to felt. Not good!!)
  3. Make your dye. For the turmeric dye bath this was as simple as putting enough water in my dye pot to cover my wool and added 2tbs turmeric and stirred until dissolved. For the red cabbage I cut up 1 small cabbage and added it to the pot and filled it 2/3 with water and boiled it for 30 mins. The colour coming out of the cabbage was immediate and by 30 mins the cabbage was a blueish pale colour and the water was deep violet. I added 1tbs of white vinegar to it as I read this can brighten the colour by changing the ph and it did make a difference straight away.
  4. Dye the wool. Once you have your dye bath ready add your wool, pushing it gently under the water and moving it around now and again to help the dye to take evenly. You do not want to over agitate the wool by stirring or let the water boil or you will end up felting it. Keep it at a low simmer until you are happy with the colour then remove from the heat and either leave to cool then rinse or rinse straight away. I simmered my turmeric dye for 30 mins and my red cabbage dye for 1hr. When you rinse you want to keep rinsing until the water is clear, and remember, same water temperature rules apply as when simmering in the mordant.

And that was it! I hung the skeins up to dry and now I can have fun planning what they will become! I am thinking socks. I’m really happy with the colours. The turmeric is so vibrant and I love the subtle lavender grey of the red cabbage. I’ve been squirreling away avocado pits and onion skins for the past few weeks so think they will be next up. Or maybe paprika?! Watch this space!!