Catching Some Sun

Well, maybe. These skeins are trying to get a little color today.

And, technically, I am supposed to be knitting right now. But I took a pit stop to try something out…

She shouldn’t have. But she did.

On a fairly constant basis, my office mate is subjected to my torturous nature of making folks look at and touch the yarn I spin. Yesterday, during my own personal Take Your Yarn To Work Day, I made her look at and touch my latest handspun. Again.

Most of the time, I do spin dyed fiber by fiber artists like Sosae Caetano, Harbor Fibers, Greenwood Fiberworks, etc. So, since these were completely white, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when she asked me if I was going to dye them. I told her that I had been interested in trying solar dyeing lately to see what that was like, but I hadn’t found the time to really figure out how to do it yet. I most recently saw it again while visiting the Spider’s Workshop and was reminded that this was definitely on the to-do list this summer. I suppose she thought about that all of a minute before promptly sending me a link to a site that had some solar dyeing activities going on, complete with photos of gorgeous jars of yarn dyeing in the sun. Now what did she have to go and do a thing like that for? All day at work, all I could think about from then on was solar dyeing this yarn. I bet it was like watching a wind-up toy.

To be honest, I don’t have a lot of experience dyeing or a lot of time to try this, and to top it all off, we don’t have a lot of sun right now either. So, I looked up some tutorials on it and I settled on one method that was unlike the rest in that the mordant isn’t rinsed off and then the yarn put into the dyestock. This mordant stays in the dyestock with the yarn and then it’s all rinsed off when it’s ready to be finished. So, not sure if that’s technically sound. But it still might get some color onto the yarn. I do wonder if it will be coarse when it’s finished since the mordant stays in longer…I digress.

Yesterday evening, I bought some cream of tartar and then went from supermarket to supermarket to pharmacy to supermarket to find alum. The pharmacy trip almost stopped me as the pharmacist said she’d never heard of it. I’m not even going to go there. But, in the end, I found it and though it was too late to start that night, as I drifted off to sleep, I kid you not, visions of jars with colored yarns were dancing in my head! I was too far gone. I just had to see what that would look like up close!

The article instructed to put the mordant in and mix it with some lukewarm water at the bottom of the container before adding the fiber and then adding the dyestuffs. For those of you who are like me and have never really dyed yarn with anything other than kool-aid, the mordant is the alum and cream of tartar mixture. It’s supposed to fix the color to the yarn so that it is better able to retain the dye. Since I was going the natural route, I decided to use red onion skins and red cabbage. For the onion skins, I just put them into the jar with the yarn. I just threw it in there, no weighing or anything, and decided to hope for the best, yeah? Yeah, I know, I know. Maybe someday. But today, I’m just playing around, so I’m allowed, okay? 🙂

Do you see that little burst of pink-red at the bottom of the jar? I think the mordant being concentrated in that area is why the color started seeping into the yarn from there. So far, the rest remains unaffected. But even that’s okay. It’s all a game right now.

For its counterpart though, I decided to boil the red cabbage so that I could strain the cabbage and have the dyestock ultra hot. I love how when I make red cabbage and potatoes, the potatoes turn purple, lol. I figured that would have to make a good dye. We will definitely see.

I added the mordant to that and stuck the fiber in the jar.

Look at how deep that purple is! Another important note is that I had to stuff this particular skein into the jar. So, it may not dye so evenly. Again, no biggie. I just want to see if the dye takes.

I can tell you now that the purple nearer the bottom of the jar looks a lot redder than the purple at the top of the jar. Mordant again? It’s pretty cool, regardless. I sure wouldn’t be mad if it dyed different shades across the whole skein!

Anyway, not sure how long I’ll leave these. Probably just long enough to see if it works. Girl Child will be doing her best to get that stuff out of there and onto the carpet where she thinks it belongs…I can’t wait for summer though! 🙂


  1. 😀 This is awesome! Tell me how it goes. I used the same ingredients and found that red cabbage doesn’t colorfast very well. (Btw I talked to you on Tumblr 🙂 )

    • Now see, I thought you meant a tumblr blog called Stories To Tell You, LOL! Your blog is awesome!

      Now about this red cabbage…really? Oh well. You live and you learn. If this has any purple on it though…any purple at all, the MIL will love it!

      • For the experiment tomorrow, I’m doing onion skins and either tea or blackberries (I prefer the blackberries though). The mordants I’m testing out are: Copper (Sulfate), Iron (Sulfate), Tin (Chloride), and Alum (Potassium Aluminium Sulfate). According to this book I’m using, Tin will be the most drastic color change but pretty harsh to the yarn so you have to use things like cream of tartar with it.

      • Oh!! That is so exciting! I went to a fiber festival recently where they had a fiber artist discussing various mordants. If someone had showed me what these chemicals could do when I was younger, I would have paid more attention in science class, lol. I can’t wait to see what you come up with!

      • 😀 I did the post! Mordants are SO amazing!

      • I just finished reading it. What an awesome post!! And thanks for posting that link to where you order mordants. That was really helpful!

  2. I can’t wait to see how these turn out! I did a lot of solar dyeing last summer because it was hot enough. However, I used my usual kitchen dyes (food coloring and the such), I’ve never tried all natural dyes before.

  3. Wow – cant wait to see what this comes out like!

    • Me either. But I keep moving them from window sill to window sill trying to get more sun and heat! I know I will be itching to rinse them soon…so I just want them to get more sun!

  4. WOW! I can’t wait for this one too… You are amazing. Thank you. Have a nice day and HAPPY MOTHER’s DAY, with my love, nia

    • LOL! Thanks Nia! I’m glad you like this, although it’s very unoriginal. 🙂 I’m so hoping that that red onion will tint the yarn a little more before I am ready to take it out….the wait is insane!

      Thanks for the well wishes for Mother’s Day!

  5. It looks great! I love your idea of dying with vegetables – it should make interesting colours with a very natural tone, I think.

    Good luck! 🙂

    • I think there are some books on this that I have not ordered yet. But the one I really want is by Rita Buchanan and it’s ultra-expensive. Maybe someday it’ll become part of my library. I’m thinking I will like dyeing here and there with some natural stuffs I can find around my house or neighborhood. And yet, I still don’t think I’d be able to give up the super-saturated fibers I can buy premade! They are just so lush!! But kind of dangerous for me to try dyeing on that level with the Girl Child into everything the way she is. I have to keep an eye on that one, lol. I’ll leave the dangerous stuff to the folks who can do it with reckless abandon. 🙂 Still, so many possibilities though!

  6. So cool – can’t wait to see the result – and see what you make with this… I wish I was your co-worker, it would be fun to see your work from day to day. (FYI, I subject my co-workers to my quilting progress) so you are not alone! 😉

  7. Cool! Our very first blog was our journey into solar dyeing. It is fun! Can’t wait to see the colors!

  8. I can’t wait to see your results!

    I have been working with my daughter’s second grade class and the science teacher, showing them how to dye with plants. We used onions skins, eucalyptus bark and leaves, walnut leaves, avocado skins and black beans. The kids loved watching the colours develop as the jars sat in their room. Unfortunately we didn’t have much sun, and we could only work with the kids when they had science, so the jars sat for two weeks and got quite mouldy!

    I don’t know what the kids liked more, the pretty colours on the fabric and wool, or the smell of fermented leaves!

    BTW, it was the first time I had tried black beans, which from what I have read on other blogs works in cold water. Gave a blue grey colour, so I am going experiment more!

    Thanks for the link, 🙂

    • Hmmm….I’m going to have to try this cold black bean dye you speak of. I always have some of them on hand….

      I know they had to have enjoyed the class! I swear, I don’t know why more science teachers don’t do things like this in class. They’d get so much more interested faces, lol!

  9. I aboslutely love it! This is so great, Stacey. 🙂 I can’t wait to see what these skeins will look like! (Hurry up, sun!)

  10. That was Front OR back windows. 😎

  11. Now this is something I would be willing to try. Not with my own skeins of course – not ready for all of that. Sounds like a great summer experiment.

  12. I’ve been thinking about dyeing yarn and roving in a few of my extra mason jars. Your post seriously make me want pick up the pace on that.

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