Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Natural Dyes - Nature's Blessing Stole

For a good portion of the summer, I worked hard on a project for a friend: a stole made from wool which I cleaned, combed, and spun.

Raw rambouillet fleece. You can see just from the fleece that there were varying shades of cleanliness.

We washed the fleece in warm water with soap (3 baths), and warm water without soap (3 baths). We used Seventh Generation dish soap because it doesn't have enzymes in it, which can ruin the fleece.

After the fleece was washed, we lay it out to dry on an old screen door. It took several days to dry fully.

One of the ways I prepared the fleece was by carding it. I bought two dog combs from the pet store and use them as combs to make rollags. I've also carded wool and used a makeshift dis (basically a circle with a hole in the middle) to make long bits of top. I don't have pictures to demonstrate this.

And then I spun it into yarn! This stuff is heavenly to spin. I think it may have something to do with the fact that there are less (no!) chemicals in the yarn once I've finished it, or maybe the fact that I worked with the wool from almost the beginning. It spun so easily, no drafting necessary.

The wool was a gift from a friend, and I wanted to make something with it for her. Because she is very much a gardener and nature person, I decided that I would experiment with natural dyes while working toward the final goal of knitting a stole.

Black and white fleece spun together and then dyed twice with red onion skins. In the final stole, it looked greener than it does here.

From left: Pink: third dyebath with tickseed (little yellow flower we have in our front yard). The water boiled away partially, giving the yarn a variegated look. Orange: First dye with tickseed. I used copper pennies as mordant for this dyebath, but took them out for the pink. Yellow: Queen Anne's Lace with allum mordant.

I dyed this roving with tickseed. I believe the finished yarn is the orange in the picture above.

The finished stole! The pattern is called "woven stitch." I embroidered a cross and a flower on the two ends, and I think they turned out fairly well, despite my lack of embroidery skills. Marie loved the stole, and I loved making it!

I started the project with the hope to make something for someone who meant a lot to me...doing it in a way I thought she'd approve of. I'd never really considered using what is given to us in nature for something like this before...but now I think I will find it hard to return to using chemicals to dye with. Those dyes fade over time. Centuries of cloth from Europe show us that natural dyes stay brilliant for much longer. The extra effort is worth it in the end.


  1. wow. That's a beautiful result of a thoughtful process. Nicely done.