Dandelion Dye Day

May 2, 2010 at 1:02 pm 10 comments

I know I was going to try the dandelion dye on No-name’s fleece, but I couldn’t wait any longer. After all, the neighbors on both sides had mowed their yards days ago. We were looking pretty shaggy.

So, I found a skein of almost-white homespun wool yarn that had been ravaged by Newton and was considered, by me, to be unsellable. Friday became D-day.

First, I went out to pick the dandelions–no stems, please, only heads. I felt like a grazing beast, hunkered over my lawn, snapping off the sappy, saffron flowers. Purposely did I wait until the employed neighbors had left for the day. I can only imagine what the retirees thought when they gazed out of their windows.

“There’s that crazy woman out there thinking she can get rid of her dandelions by taking off the heads. And what’s that she’s putting them in? A stock pot?”


Dandelion Harvest

Yes, I took the pot outside with me. Here is the harvest. Note the effect on my gardening gloves. To the pot I added enough water so that they floated easily and could be submerged with a spoon. In hindsight, I think less water would have made for a better dye.

I then cooked said mixture for approximately 1 hour. The result looked brownish and smelled like weed stew. I strained the stew to remove the solids and kept the liquid.

Meanwhile, I had been simmering my skein of mixed Corriedale handspun wool yarn in another pot along with 2 quarts water and 2 cups white vinegar, which would function as my fixative, or mordant. I let it simmer for about an hour, while the dandelion stew cooked. After draining the yarn, I put it into the dyebath and continued to cook at just below a simmer for another hour.

I’m sorry I didn’t take a picture of this stage. I was convinced that I had just invented brown yarn, not the yellow I wanted. Since it seemed I had nothing more to lose, I left the yarn in the dye overnight.

Saturday I drained the yarn, rinsed it in cold water, squeezed out the excess and hung it to dry. It was not brown, but there was a definite light-brown-ness about it.

Dandelion Dyed Yarn

Dandelion Yarn in its Natural Habitat

Then it dried and a tiny miracle occurred.

Today I have a shade that is more yellow than tan. It’s rather nice if you like a subdued, natural shade of dark yellow. Take a look!

“Yes,” you say, “But all that green gives a misleading color in the photo.”

You’re right, you know. (How’d you get to be so smart?)  So here are two more shots.

Dandelion dyed yarn

Dandelion Yarn on a Sleepy White Cat

One on a very obliging (and white) Gizmo,

and another on a white-ish blanket.

Dandelion dyed yarn

Dandelion Yarn on Blanket

Lessons Learned:

I probably should have removed the green hulls from the flowers for a more yellowy yellow.

Dandelion dye leaves wool smelling like cooked weeds.

Entry filed under: Dye. Tags: , .

I’m Dying to Try Natural Dye Time Out for a Chocolate Syrup Recipe

10 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Ply me to the moon… « The Homespun Life  |  May 30, 2010 at 10:00 pm

    […] is the dandelion-dyed Shetland plied with a natural cocoa-brown Corriedale single I spun several months before. The left and right […]

  • 2. 2010 in review « The Homespun Life  |  January 2, 2011 at 11:01 am

    […] Dandelion Dye Day May 2010 1 comment […]

  • 3. wildcraft diva  |  January 19, 2013 at 8:56 am

    Linked to this-thanks :)

  • 4. emilyj67  |  May 15, 2013 at 6:16 pm

    My yarn is in the pot of dye-water now (for over an hour so far), but it doesn’t seem to be absorbing all the dye by a long shot. Will it be better if I leave it to the morning? I indeed simmered with in a vinegar-water bath first, so I’m not sure what the problem is. I did dye playsilks a few months ago, so I was kind of expecting the dye to soak up quickly, so perhaps that’s my problem — your thoughts?

    • 5. tanglethorne  |  May 15, 2013 at 9:27 pm

      What is the fiber content of your yarn? Is it 100% wool? What kind of dye are you using?

    • 6. emilyj67  |  May 16, 2013 at 4:26 am

      100% Peruvian highland wool — I’m using Cascade 220 (not superwash), recommended at my LYS by a staff person who dyes. I did have the dyebath in the fridge overnight, but I can’t imaging that’s the problem (I heated it to simmer the yarn afterwards). Should I add vinegar to the dyebath directly? I did soak/simmer the yarn in the vinegar bath for at least an hour before draining it and putting it in the dyebath. I appreciate your help!

    • 7. tanglethorne  |  May 16, 2013 at 8:40 am

      I need to disclaimer that I’ve played with some dyes, but I am not an expert by any stretch of the imagination! :-) Are you using a food dye like Kool-Aid, Wilton frosting dye or egg colors? I found a tutorial using the same Cascade 220 here: http://kathrynivy.com/patterns/extras/dyeing-yarn/ , except that Kathryn is steaming her yarn, not simmering it. More excellent help for food dyes here: http://www.dyeyouryarn.com/vinegar.html

      I don’t think refrigerating your dye bath should have caused any problems, as long as the dye was completely dissolved when heated.

      Adding vinegar to the dyebath can help acid dyes to exhaust (be taken up by the fiber). Here’s a great troubleshooting guide for acid dyes: http://www.dharmatrading.com/Acid_Dyes__Helpful_Hints_for_Dissolving_and_Trouble_Shooting/index.shtml

      Try Googling “dyeing yarn vinegar dyebath” for more how-tos and hints. And let me know how things turn out!!!

  • 8. emilyj67  |  May 16, 2013 at 9:24 am

    You are so generous to keep responding to my snarl. I’m using dandelions, of course! When I get home this evening, I will add vinegar directly to the dyebath (I’d soak-simmered the yarn separately in a vinegar bath yesterday.) and see what transpires. One of those helpful links also suggested adding salt if the vinegar doesn’t do the trick, so I’ll keep that up my sleeve. I really appreciate you mentoring me through this — thanks.

    • 9. tanglethorne  |  May 16, 2013 at 4:16 pm

      Ah-haaaa! (lightbulb goes on) Well you don’t need to worry about getting your dye dissolved! :-)

      Your dandelion “stew” will still be stew-colored (greenish/brown) when you pull the yarn out. It will not clear out as the dye is absorbed into the yarn. I think this is normal for natural dyes, because it’s a different process than using man-made dyes.

      Did you use the entire head (yellow petals AND green part–I think it’s called the sepal)? Or just the yellow petals? I’d LOVE to see a photo of how your yarn turns out Emily. I’ve been looking at my yard and wishing I had time to try some more dandelion dye. :-)


  • 10. emilyj67  |  May 19, 2013 at 7:29 pm

    So: pouring a bunch more vinegar indeed convinced the yarn to soak up the dye, but alas…not enough dandy dye. So I’m keeping going, having gotten another ounce+ from my yard, and I will get more dandelions in the next few days to try to darken it a bit! Many thanks. :)


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