This weekend my mom and I took a natural dye workshop. We've taken one before on weak-acid dyes, but frankly that's a bit intimidating with all the safety warnings. So we thought we'd learn how to take advantage of all the great colours in nature.
We made three different dyes with items easily gathered in your own backyard or grocery store: marigolds, red cabbage and walnut husks.
I put my roving into the marigold and walnut brews. The flowers give a wonderful golden yellow and the walnuts a deep brown.
Now I'm doing a batch in red cabbage. I boiled the cabbage for a couple hours (making natural dyes can be stinky work!) and prepared the merino in a solution of alum and cream of tartar to help it absorb the dye. Then the fibre went into the pot of cabbage juice after straining out the cabbage. Although I realize now, far too late, that the instructor mentioned she put the cabbage through a cloth to catch the small bits. Sure enough, there are teeny bits of cabbage floating around my fibre. I hope that comes out in the final rinse.
It's bubbling away on my stove for an hour. I'll let it sit overnight and see what I have tomorrow. The fibre will be a lovely blue and I'm going to put half the roving into another bath with baking soda to change the pH, and the colour to green.
The type of fibre you use, as well as the mordant and assist, and even what the pot's made of all changes how the colour comes out. Pretty neat.