Thursday, August 16, 2012

Natural Dyeing with Goldenrod

I think it would be so wonderful to get all of the colors we need from nature - and I suspect that we probably could.  Just last night while reading the book I shared in my last post, I came across this - 
"When Ruby and her mother decided to stencil the front-room walls, Seth gathered the elder twigs and chewed their ends for the brushes.  He helped, too, to gather the huckleberries and prepare their rich purple juice into which the brushes were dipped to work the color through the tin stencils onto the plaster."  (from Out of the Saltbox, by Ruth Rasey)

With lots of goldenrod growing all around our homestead, we gathered the flowers

And then using the directions from here, and using Peace Fleece natural yarn, we put the goldenrod in the canning pan and added enough water to cover, then heated to a simmer and left for about one hour.  I left the goldenrod to soak overnight.    The next morning, I drained the flowers out and heated up the dye bath to a simmer again.

Meanwhile, I filled another large stainless steel pan with water and added the alum which is the mordant.  This is used to keep the yarn colorfast.   I then soaked three skeins of yarn in the mordant and then one at a time, added them to the dye and let sit for about an hour.  I probably should have left them to soak in the dye bath over night - as they did come out a little light.

I am trying to decide what to knit with this soft lemon yellow color.   Any suggestions?
Have you done any natural dyeing?  (There has been some  natural dyeing going on at this blog.)
What have you used?
I am thinking that it would be wonderful to plant a dyers garden next spring.  

Warm wishes,


  1. Your project is so nice. I've dyed Easter eggs before, using onion skins, for a natural color.
    I bet the natural dyes hold the color better, because I know the dyes you buy in boxes don't... And of course, tea is quite a sturdy natural dye! (learned that by spillage!) love,andrea

  2. It looks lovely! I tried some natural dying with turmeric, but had some issues. You can read about it here:

  3. I have been wanting to try my hand at dying wool and with fields of golden rod all around I think I'm ready to give it a try.Thank you so much for the inspiration. I love your yarn and think it would make a lovely wee sweater or maybe a cowl.

  4. Oh I love all of this- so nice that you are doing this and also have your children involved...I have done quite a bit of natural dyeing with my grandfather as a child as well as with my kids- it's always so fun to see how it turns out.I think anything you knit with that buttery yellow will be lovely.
    Handbook of natural plant dyes, Sasha Duerr
    Harvesting Color, Rebbecca Burgess

  5. Tonya, it's so pretty. :)
    I smiled when you mentioned a "dyers garden" because I have been planning out one for next year too! How pretty it will look, and how useful. One thing I really want is Tansy.
    <3 Hope you're enjoying these beautiful day!

  6. That is what I am doing, is planning to put in the garden, plants to use for dye. Goldenrod grows abundantly here in the mountains, but I would like to use berries and such for the deeper hues.

    Thank you for sharing Tonya.


  7. Such a lovely soft yellow! I think a sweater with matching "pants" for a little one would be sweet.

  8. I love the lemon glow of your yarn. Natural dyes are so facinating and beautiful. I have dyed with red and brown onion skins, eucaluptus bark, cochineal, mulberries and Rooibos tea. All produced wonderful colour. I will join you in planting a dyers garden.

    Take care


  9. How awesome, love it!! I have never tried, but you have inspired me, thanks!

  10. I love it, soft. No suggestions for what to make but I look forward to seeing what you do decide to make. I'm interested in natural-dying myself. Where do you get the alum from?

  11. I grew woad! That was interesting, each year I wish I could grow a dyers garden - maybe next year.
    We went to an interesting living history event at Old Sarum which is just down the road from us, and there was a lady doing some dyeing in the Saxon part, and she pointed out that for dyes which need an iron mordant, what they did was do their dying in an iron pot, which fixed the dye for them, not sure they even knew why it worked so well!

  12. Oh and for the soft lemon yarn, I'm thinking something cosy for winter, a little warm wrap for bed time, an old fashioned bed jacket like so

  13. The soft yellow yarn is gorgeous!
    Hi, I really enjoyed reading this post. Your blog is quite interesting.
    Have a great weekend!

  14. Oh, the goldenrod turned out so beautiful! I think the reason mine turned out so vibrant was because the yarn was superwash. Even with commercial dyes, the colors tend to be much more bold. Do you like working with the Peace Fleece yarn? I'm hoping to find some at the yarn shop today, I've never tried it before.

    I'm having a hard time deciding what to make with my yarn too. For now I'm content to leave it in a wooden bowl and admire my work. ;)

  15. Dear Tonya...I love this! We have lots of goldenrod here, too, but I chose tansy for my first go on some new homespun. I am using Rebecca Burgess' book "Harvesting Color" which is so fantastic. I am going along with her suggestion of letting the mordant sit a few days before we dye on the weekend. Tonya, that lemony yellow is gorgeous! I look forward to seeing what you create with it.
    xo Jules
    P.S. Yes, indeed, a dyer's garden is mapped out in my head, too. Madder root and indigo and logwood are the tops of my list.

  16. The yarn turned out very beautiful! I love the color of goldernrod. I also couldn't help but notice the baby's adorably cute little legs and feet as she is staring into the basket! She is adorable!

  17. lovely dye color!

    this week i'm going to show our results of acorns, fennel and elderberry. we've been furiously experimenting these last 2 years - it's wonderful how much color exists in nature!

  18. We use the leaves from the plant, and discard the flowers. We put the leaves in cheese cloth and let it steep in the dye bath for a few hours first. We also add out mordant (1/2C Alum and 1/4 C Cream of tartar) to the dyebath itself. It makes a lovely darker shade of yellow. We always keep the yarn in the dye bath until it is three shades darker than you want it to be.

  19. Oh, the joys of natural dyeing! I've harvested some yarrow and horsetail to dye some beautiful yarn that I was recently gifted. And I just finished dyeing with turmeric. BRIGHT mustardy yellow.

    The yellow you achieved with the goldenrod is FAB.