I have said it once, and I will say it again and again,dyeing natural fibres isn’t just fun, it’s a healing and restorative practice – for both you and Mother Earth.
Naturally dyeing textiles (particularly dyeing yarn) is one of the simplest yet most authentic ways to help our planet whilst also creating a true sense of connection between nature and humans. It gently offers you this unique opportunity to create alongside Mother Nature as you explore handmade art forms. And I just absolutely love it!
And while we are on the topic of things that I love, I must bring your attention back to the fact that one of my favourite items to work with is, without a doubt, yarn.
It truly is the perfect canvas for natural dyeing, not only because you can create the most beautiful clothing items with it, but because there are many other interesting, fun and unique crafts you can make with yarn.
From yarn-woven pot plant holders to delicate socks, intricately detailed ornaments, art pieces and more, the possibilities with yarn are endless. Take a look at some inspiration about things to create with yarn here.
What you can use to dye yarn naturally
The versatility, durability and eagerness of yarn makes it the perfect companion in your natural dyeing journey. Remember that it is important to always choose natural fibres for dyeing naturally, as synthetic fibres won’t absorb the dye. Natural fibres such as wool, cotton, linen, hemp, and silk are perfect for naturally dyeing yarn. This is because yarn works so well with a number of natural dyestuffs. Check out some of my personal favourite things to use when I am dyeing yarn:
Yellow Onion Skins
For those of you eager to get started, you will be happy to learn that yellow onion skins don’t take long to extract colour. You’ll be able to see the yarn’s colour change to a GLORIOUS yellow-orange hue within approximately 30 minutes. It’s ideal to use onion skins on white yarn. Here’s your guide to dyeing with onions.
Red Onion Skins
Red onion skins give a slightly similar shade to yellow onion skins, however, slightly darker. You might be expecting the burgundy red of the skin to be diffused into your water, but you’d be surprised that it is completely different. Definitely try it out!
I have always absolutely adored the fact that dyeing with pomegranates means experiencing several of the most incredibly vibrant colours to choose from, depending on the process you use. You can easily create rich yellows, earthy greens, and even deep greys with pomegranate skins.
Better yet, because pomegranates have such a high tannin and luteolin content, their dye sticks very well to fabrics, making it very resistant to fading or running.
Did you know that your favourite lusciously green veggie has produced some of the most delightful pink hues if you use it as one of your natural dyes? And no, that wasn’t a type. When avocado is used as a natural dye, it produces the most gorgeous pink shade.
All you have to do is place its skin in boiling water and watch the colour transform into the most delightful dusty pink colour – all within an hour. Check out the full guide on dyeing with avocado here.
If you want the step-by-step instructions to start naturally dyeing check out this post.
How to prepare yarn for dyeing
When it comes to dyeing yarn, you want to always properly prepare your yarn before you begin. This way, the colour will adhere correctly, and you’ll get the effect you’re after.
To prepare your yarn, you’ll need to scour and mordant it.
Scouring is another word for saying “deep washing”. By scouring the yarn, you’ll remove any oils that will stop your dye from taking. We do want gorgeous, colour-fast garments, after all! A quick way to scour your yarn is by giving it a wash in the gentlest setting of your washing machine with plenty of mild, pH-neutral detergent.
Mordanting is an important process that creates a bond between the fibre and the dye molecules, making the colour resistant to light, washing and rubbing. Learn more about mordanting here.
7 tips for dyeing yarn
I want you to get the best results possible and incredible overall creations, so I have a couple of expert tips to help you dye yarn in the best way possible!
1. Keep things easy with natural fibres. While cotton is great for more affordable dyeing, it doesn’t hold dye easily without mordanting and requires a little more work. Opt for a wool yarn where possible!
2. Remember that you can’t naturally dye wool yarn after it’s gone through any superwash treatments. Opt for 100% natural and organic wool instead (extra points if it’s locally grown and sourced!).
3. The process for dyeing yarn is the same as any other fabric, the difference comes in when looking at what the yarn is made of ie. wool, cotton, linen, silk or hemp. So you don’t have to panic about learning a new technique here!
4. If your yarn is in skeins, balls or cones, you’re going to have to turn it into a hank for dyeing.
5. Add one or two figures of 8 knots to your hanks to prevent them from tangling in the pot. The bigger the hank, the more figures of 8 knots I recommend.
Take a look at this video for some guidance.
6. You can create variegated effects in your yarn by dip-dyeing the yarn in two or more different colours or by tie-dyeing your yarn.
7. If your yarn is white or off-white, you should be able to achieve the true colour you’re looking for. If the yarn has a colour already, then you can try to dye the yarn a darker colour, it may not be exactly what you wanted, but it could be fun to experiment with.
Join a community that isn’t only obsessed with dyeing yarn but natural dyeing in its entirety
Naturally dyeing fabrics is an opportunity to create magic, to take something simple and turn it into something extraordinary. If you’re “dyeing” to learn more about natural dyeing, take a look at our workshops or courses.
I hope to see you there!