Friday, January 8, 2016

Knitting from Nature


When using plants sourced from the environment in which we live, the dye-pot yield will be dependent on the volume of plant material on hand.  Often, I have foraged only a handful, or armful of plant material...sometimes a single, large mushroom!  Some plants yield color liberally, while others seep out barely enough color to dye a single small skein of yarn.   Rarely do I have a dye-pot that will yield enough color to dye the number of skeins (5-6) needed to knit a sweater. This makes for a growing stash of single-color skeins of yarn.  These yarns are great for knitting a stranded-color project like Fair Isle hats, mittens, or sweater yoke, or for knitting small projects that use a skein or less of yarn.

This year, I dug into my stash and knit up some wrist-warmers as gifts for family and some of my fiber-friends,  The pattern is "Staghorn Cable Wrist Warmers," by carriebee; a free pattern found on Ravelry.  It is a quick, easy knit for great last-minute gifts.

From left to right:  Indigo, Tansy over indigo, Madder root,
 Indigo,, Indigo over tan, Indigo 
From left to right:  Brazilwood, Indigo over tan, Tansy over indigo,
Walnut hulls on mink, Fresh-leaf indigo.


  1. It's really a nice pattern for wrist-warmers (or mayby socks too). You have dyed the wool with indigo first and after this with tansy?! Did you recognize any advantages doing it this way? I've never tryed this way but viceversa. I could try it this summer.

    1. Hi, Birgit! Usually, I would dye with the tansy first and then the indigo. However, I had several skeins of yarn that I had crammed into a fresh-leaf indigo vat, hoping to get enough yarn for a sweater. But the pot was too crowded and sadly the yarn all came out a dismal, splotchy, pale blue-gray. 2bd abd 3rd dips in the vat didn't seem to help much. To salvage the yarn, I have been over-dyeing it. I am pleased with the results, though.

  2. Saw your blog one someone elses' Your knitted swatches look beautiful!
    Always wanted to try dying my own, but never did, because as an artist I'm very particular about color. Hope you can refer me to a how-to source. Also, I'm allergic to animal yarn, except for silk and silk blends, cotton, and acrylic.

  3. Hi Jeanette, Thanks for your comments. Silk fibers accept natural dyes beautifully, so that may be a good place to begin. There are numerous books on natural dyeing, many of which can be found in libraries. Most yarn stores also carry a book or two on natural dyeing. Some of my favorites are "Wild Color" by Jenny Dean, "Eco Color" by India Flint, and "Mushrooms are to Dye For" by Carol Lee, You say you are particular about color. Check out my post "24-Dyepot Workshop" and see some of the colors possible with plants. Other great sources of information are dye blogs. I have links to several which I follow listed here in the bar on the right. Have fun browsing through them. You are sure to be inspired.