In this video, I go over the steps I use to dye things green with natural plant dyes.
General Dye Equipment:
**NEVER MIX DYE EQUIPMENT WITH COOKING EQUIPMENT**
Many of the plants and chemicals used in dyeing are TOXIC. If you use a utensil, pot, or other equipment for dyeing, DO NOT USE THAT ITEM TO MAKE FOOD.
– Dedicated pot for dyeing
– Source of heat. I use an induction burner.
– Digital scale
– Measuring cup or some other vessel to measure and dissolve dye/chemicals
– Soak materials in room temperature water before dyeing.
– Heat water over med/low heat 175 F/79.4 C. Dissolve in 8% dry materials’ weight of Alum for mordanting.
– Add materials to mordant bath and cook for about an hour.
– Remove yarn from mordant bath.
– Cook dried marigolds in clear water for about an hour at med/low heat (175 F/79.4 C).
– Strain out marigolds, leaving dye water in the pot.
– Add materials to dye and cook for about an hour at med/low heat (175 F/79.4 C)
– Let materials cool. I usually let things sit overnight.
I use the following recipe from Dharma Trading Co for indigo dye using pre-reduced indigo crystals:
Soda ash and Thiourea Dioxide used in this recipe were also purchased from Dharma Trading Co.
Additional equipment I recommend for indigo dyeing specifically:
– a plastic 5 gallon bucket
– a big stick for stirring
– a space outside for dyeing
– a thermometer to measure the temperature of the water
5 100g bare Targhee wool skeins from Green Mountain Spinnery
5 100g previously dyed blue Targehee wool skeins from Green Mountain Spinnery
Approximately 4 yards of a thin yellow cotton fabric I bought on ebay
Approximately 25 g of white cotton yarn
One 100 g BFL skein of yarn to use up the last of the yellow dye
One scrap of cotton fabric to use up the last of some pink dye from a previous dye project
Photo by Anton Atanasov
Logo designed and drawn by A.R. Gergler
Farming a Field of Yellow Flowers by Kresimir Divic
Video by Katy Landers: https://www.pexels.com/video/aerial-view-of-marigold-flowers-5568706/
Video by Teona Swift: https://www.pexels.com/video/thick-foamy-surface-6842623/
Shisha-Tom, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Kurt Stüber , CC BY-SA 3.0 <http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/>, via Wikimedia Commons
Stefan.lefnaer, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Frédéric Neupont au Muséum du Pastel de Toulouse-Labège, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Music: Celtic Ambiance by Alexander Nakarada
Free download: https://filmmusic.io/song/9030-celtic-ambiance
License (CC BY 4.0): https://filmmusic.io/standard-license
Artist website: https://www.serpentsoundstudios.com/
Photo by Anton Atanasov
Hello. I’m Adrian. This is Barrows & Wights.
“I do know how to get green from natural dye sources, but I do not yet know how to get different shades reliably enough to dye multiple 100 g skeins of bare yarn.”
This comment that I made during my medieval project announcement video kept popping into my head all summer. This video is about dyeing things green with natural plant dyes.
I have done no research for this video. Everything that I will be talking about I learned four years ago when natural dyeing became The Thing That I Was Into. There are a lot of books, blogs, and videos out there in the world about natural dyeing. The only thing I looked up during the filming of this video was the indigo recipe from Dharma Trading Co where I bought most of my chemical supplies.
Materials and relevant links are included in the description below.
There isn’t a one-step trick to dyeing green with plant sources. You can achieve certain shades of green by dyeing with a yellow pigment and chemically altering that pigment with something like iron, but to get a true green, we need to go back to our kindergarten lessons. To make green, we need yellow and blue.
Yellow is a very easy color to dye naturally. I personally have dyed with yellow and red onion skins, mullein, twigs from an apple tree, turmeric, dandelions, and marigolds to achieve different yellows.
Blue, however, is a very difficult color to find as a natural dye. Two plants, the woad plant and the indigo plant, contain blue pigments that can be used to dye with. These blue dyes also require a different preparation method than other common natural dyes. I will explain more later in the video.
Here’s what you need to know right now:
– I prefer to dye the yellow first
– the recipe I use for indigo dyeing makes a lot of dye
– protein fibers, like wool and silk, take on natural dyes more vibrantly than plant fibers like cotton or linen
The primary materials for this demonstration are these five skeins of undyed wool yarn from Green Mountain Spinnery, but you will see a lot of other materials being dyed during the course of this video so that I can use as much of the dye as possible.
I start by weighing out each dry skein and marking the weight of each of these skeins both in my little dye notebook and on a plastic tag on the skein. Most skeins are sold as 100 grams, but this may not be the exact weight of the yarn and I need that weight for later math.
The skeins then get a bath in plain water while I make other preparations.
I have these big jars of dried marigolds that I’ve been growing and saving for the past three years. I weighed out the volume of marigolds that I wanted to use and made note of the total.
And here’s where I’m going to lose some of you because I like math and I like to do all my math at once for dyeing so that I have everything ready at a glance. This is why I have a little dye notebook. Just bear with me for a second.
My dye pot can comfortably fit 2 skeins of yarn without being too crowded. I split up my 5 skeins into two groups of two and one single skein. I add up the dry weight of the yarn for each dye bath.
I take the dry yarn weight total for each dye bath and multiple it by 8%. This number will important later.
I take the total weight of the dried marigolds, divide it by 5 skeins, and total up how much I will need for each dye bath. There are more exact ways to calculate this division which I would use with acid dyes, but each flower does not contain the same amount of dye material and the flowers are many different sizes and shades. An exact 5-way split would not guarantee the same amount of color, so I didn’t bother.
And that’s the math done. Not too painful, right?
For most natural dyes, you need to mordant your fiber to ensure that the material will both take the dye and keep the dye. There are a lot of different mordants you can use to do this. I use alum. Alum is the common name for either aluminum sulfate or aluminum potassium sulfate – I don’t know which one I have. The label’s been gone for years. It’s nontoxic for humans and food-safe in small quantities, so it’s one of the more common chemical mordants for beginners.
Remember we did that math for 8% of the dry yarn weight? That’s how much alum I add to each of the mordant baths. I heat the water to a medium-low temperature on my little induction burner, which is about 175 degrees Fahrenheit, and let the yarn cook in that water for 45 minutes to an hour. I then remove the yarn and put it back into a room temperature bath to wait for dyeing.
I should note here that low and slow is the name of the game with natural dyeing. If the temperature is too high, you risk damaging the plant materials and they won’t produce the colors you’re looking for. Because the temperature can’t be too high, you have to have the dye baths going for longer in order to get fibrant, saturated colors.
I divvy up my marigolds based on the dye bath amounts we calculated earlier and then proceed to do the follow steps for each dye bath:
1. Add the dried marigolds to clear water and cook on medium-low heat for about an hour.
2. Strain out the cooked marigolds, leaving just the dye water in the pot.
3. Add the skein or skeins to the dye bath and cook on medium-low heat for about an hour.
4. Remove the skeins from the heat and let cool to room temperature. I usually let these sit overnight.
These marigolds yielded much more dye than I had expected, so after each initial dye bath, I dissolved another 8% dry yarn weight of alum into the bath and added in some yarn that I had dyed blue with indigo a couple of years ago.
After everything has been dyed and cooled, it all gets a wash and is hung out to dry. Our example yarns are now a nice golden yellow color and our bonus yarns are light green.
The chemical processes behind indigo dyeing are much different than the marigolds. The leaves of the plant are fermented to extract the blue pigment and the blue pigment cannot just be heated in water and added to fiber like other natural dyes. The blue pigment actually isn’t water soluble, so you need to add specific chemicals to your indigo dye vat to make the pigment behave as a dye. I don’t understand all of the process and there are many different recipes and methods to achieve this from all over the world, but ultimately, the goal is to make the bath alkaline (about ph10) and reduce oxygen in the water. An indigo dye vat behaves more like a sourdough starter than a paint. With the right kind of attention and set up, you can actually keep an indigo dye vat active for several weeks or months.
I do not have that kind of set up and have no need to keep a blue dye bath going for that long, so you’re seeing more of a one day dye vat situation. I follow the recipe from Dharma Trading Co to combine pre-reduced indigo crystals, thiourea dioxide, and soda ash in warm water to produce my dye vat.
I add all of the materials I intend to dye to a cool water bath to prepare them for dyeing and, if you’ve never done indigo dyeing before, I recommend you do it outside. It’s a little trickier to get the water to the right temperature this way, but indigo dyes literally everything.
Once I’ve gotten everything set up and the fiber is ready to go, the actual dye process is pretty quick. I put on some gloves, squeeze the excess water out of my item, and dunk it in the dye bath for about 30 seconds without touching the bottom or sides of the bucket. I’m careful not to create additional air bubbles in the dye because we don’t want oxygen getting into the dye bath.
When you first pull the item out of the dye, it will be much more green than you anticipate, but that’s because the chemical processes for this dye haven’t finished doing their thing yet. Once the item is exposed to the air, the oxygen in the air will change that light green color to blue. This is less obvious on our yellow and green skeins of yarn, but you can see the change happening on this white cotton yarn I dyed for a demonstration.
I let everything dry in the sun for a couple of hours, then everything gets a thorough wash. I wash everything more than once because I don’t want any loose dye particles causing problems later.
Here we are. Naturally dyed green yarn. And a bonus look at some over-dyed fabric for an upcoming project.
I hope you enjoyed this dye adventure. Let me know in the comments if you’ve ever done any natural dyeing or if you’re interested in watching more dyeing with me here on the channel.
I’ll see you again soon.