summer colors

So what’s up besides the invasion of beetles at the cabin……well we tickled a few fish and saw an osprey dive in the water to catch his dinner. And.. a little dyeing happened while I was there. So much more fun than cleaning the house and what  a nice assortment of color. The yellow shades of yarn on the cloths line look so summery to me. And the orange colors really pop – they are so bright.

Here the range of colors I got with coreopsis from a light yellow to a deep orange the longer I simmered the flower buds. Hanging with my yarn are some squares of wool that I shrunk and then dyed.Here is the coreopsis in the dye garden I probable should have taken this picture before I picked all the flowers off.

I found a slightly better picture from 2 weeks ago.

I had 3 cups of flowers that I put into a pot with enough water to cover. I set it over the fire to simmer and added the yarn once I saw the color releasing. As I took one skien of wool out I would add another the lightest color was the first batch when the color in the pot was just releasing the color. It seemed as the pot simmered longer it got darker and darker. There was still color left in the pot when I was done with the orange so…

I ran out of walnut brown yarn for a test knit I am doing so I dyed a hank first with walnut and then over dyed it in a coreopsis pot after getting the oranges I wanted. I have 2 buckets in the garden shed that have the walnut hulls from last fall soaking in water. I lined each 5 gallon bucket with a strainer bag that you can buy at a paint store like Sherman WIlliams – then I put the walnut husks in the bag and filled the bucket with water. When I want to get a brown color I simple pull out the strainer bag and put my yarn into the dark brown dye. Easy as pie — no heating necessary. The very first dyes that you get when you set up the buckets are the browns I like best as the dye sits longer the browns are a little duller.

Once in a while i get a color I just don’t like- so I will over dye that yarn. I will put it in the bucket of brown water and be rewarded with a rich brown with an undertone of yellow or orange. But this time I dyed the wool first in the walnut bucket and then put the skein in to the coreopsis pot and let it simmer over the charcoal left in the fire pit. The orange left in the pot made the brown so much richer looking. It added a depth to the color of the yarn that I just love.

Next up is horsetail(equisetum) after simmering I  got this lovely pale  yellow shade. The darker hank is some beige yarn that I had thrown into each of the simmering dye pots I had going on Tuesday.(see all the veg. matter in the yarn — it comes out easily but until I label the yarn I am going to leave it as a reminder of what I used).

For this brew I picked enough horsetail to fill my pot and then added water to cover the plants. Then I simmered until I saw a little color in the water. I pulled aside some of the stems to put my wool in the pot and took the pot off the fire and just put it along side the pit to stay hot. I left it all day and the color was pale yellow so I left it over night to cool in the water to see if it would darken. But it didn’t -if I do another pot of this I might let it simmer and then take out the cooked stems and add fresh when I put in the wool and see if I get a darker shade. But I am happy with this color and will knit with it. The soft light yellow would make a pretty baby sweater or a shawl.

I googled this picture of horsetail cause I neglected to take a picture in my yard. This is a native plant that I let grow wild as a ground cover under the quaking aspen  in the  front yard. I have no desire to battle the local plants that were here before we built our house and am happy to just let them grow. A while ago I had read that these plants could be used to scrub with(I might try this when camping) and that they were also a natural dye so thats why I tried it.

I have a different variety of horse tail growing in my yard that I also want to try…this is the kind I saw growing by my parents house on Lake Huron. it is a long stem of segments that we would pull apart and put back together when we were kids as we walked on the beach.

Next up is a mystery plant. I was clearing out some scrubby invaders in the garden bed. Because even though I like the native plants they can quickly over take the yarn and force everything else out. I was hacking away at this tree?..shrub???? well I have to do some research I just am not sure of what it is. Maybe something in the apple family??while I was chopping away at this mess that is crowding out a maple and a tamerack …it suddenly dawned on me that the branch had a lovely dark red under the bark and the wood was a blushing pink. Some of the leaves also had a reddish tinge to them. So I sat under the deck and peeled the bark off the branches. It was slightly sticky and sweet smelling. The bark went into a jar with alcohol. The leaves went into a pot of water to simmer and this is what I gotIt’s a bright yellow with just a hint of green in it. I think it is going to be perfect for a cowl that will chase the winter blues away.  So I think this bush?? tree?? might stay where its at in the yard because I really like this cheery yellow and the bush isn’t bad looking either and the tamerack(that I bought at the nursery) isn’t looking good so it might have to go.. I can’t wait to see if the bark yields a nice color too but I am going to leave that ferment for a week or two before I put it in a dye pot.

For this brew I again filled the pot with leaves and covered them with water then set on my rack above the fire pit to simmer. The water turned yellow and smelled pleasant simmering on the fire. I took out the cooked leaves and added my wool and then added more leaves to fill the pot again. I was rewarded with a nice dark yellow – it really is a happy color. I took out the yarn and wool squares and added more wool to the pot after a couple of hours. The second batch on top of the fire until night fall and then took them out to dry. I left one skein and a square in the pot over night to cool and those were the darkest of the batch.

Except for the walnut that doesn’t need a mordant the wool was mordanted with alum that I buy in the spice section of the grocery store. And when I take the wool out of the pots I hang them to dry with out rinsing. Once they are dry I will wash and rinse them and hang them to dry again. It seems like not as much color gets rinsed out if I let them dry first. Because I don’t use the more toxic mordants I let the rinse water run in my garden beds.  I enjoy being outside in the yard so I do all my dyeing over the fire pit or once and a while in a crock pot under the deck. I don’t want to fill the house with fumes from the plants I dye with.

Next time I want to dye with black eyed Susans–they are my favorite flower. My sister Peg says they are blooming by already in NH and she is going to dye with them this week. I saw a few blossoms on my walk this morning but maybe by the time we get back to the cabin there will be more. And I also want to try Queen Anne’s lace again. the last time I dyed with Queen Anne’s I had a nice soft yellow until I washed and rinsed the yarn and it turned a bright green chartreuse. But it was still a great color and I love the surprises that happen when I dye!



  1. Peg said,

    June 29, 2012 at 2:30 pm

    What a beautiful range of colors!

  2. whatzitknitz said,

    June 29, 2012 at 3:31 pm

    Thanks Peg — can’t wait to see what colors you get from your garden this week.

  3. Karen Berthine said,

    June 29, 2012 at 5:35 pm

    What fun!!

    • whatzitknitz said,

      June 29, 2012 at 5:38 pm

      Thanks for letting me know you like this ; )
      I am always playing in my garden and exploring ways to use my plants.

  4. Lisa said,

    June 30, 2012 at 2:43 pm

    Wow, that’s awesome. Thank you for sharing your dyeing techniques!

    • whatzitknitz said,

      June 30, 2012 at 7:51 pm

      Glad you like it. Are you thinking of dyeing some of your plants too?

  5. jane tims said,

    April 15, 2013 at 1:50 pm

    Hi. I am going to learn to dye with plants this year and have been reading some of your posts. Can hardly wait to try some of the ferns! Jane

    • whatzitknitz said,

      April 15, 2013 at 1:59 pm

      Hi back – you are going to love making colors with the plants in your garden. It is very addictive once you start. And so easy to do. I have already brewed a few batches of color this spring from walnuts that I ad fermenting in the garden shed and also from some blooms that I froze last fall.
      I am patiently waiting for the daffodils to bloom(they are so late this year) because they yield a beautiful sunshine-y yellow.

      • jane tims said,

        April 16, 2013 at 2:02 pm

        Hi. Now I’m going to capture some of that yellow too! Thanks for the tip! Jane

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