I really enjoy dyeing wool. I love seeing how the colours will turn out. It’s always a surprise. I quite like the idea of using natural dyes, but have always been put off by the toxic mordants, or fixing compounds, required by many of the plant based dyes. Early one summer, Olive came in to the cottage with a handful of Coreopsis flowers and mentioned that they were great for dyeing AND that they required no mordant. Perfect!
So off I go to pick a large amount of lovely bright yellow Coreopsis flowers for my dyeing project. I read somewhere that you need at least a 1:1 ratio of fibre to flowers, and possibly even more, so I used a 50g skein of natural wool that I had already handspun, and weighed 50g of flower heads.
I placed my flowers in a saucepan and covered them with water. Vicki had told me that I should really do this outside, as you can really stink up your kitchen and it’s also possible that some of the plants are toxic, so I would never dye inside if I was remotely unsure about the safety of the plant. I had no idea what the smell would be like, but threw caution to the wind and fired up the stove top. Once the concoction was boiling, I took a few careful sniffs and breathed a sigh of relief at the absence of a foul scent. The smell was a little strong, but the exhaust fan stopped it reaching any further than the kitchen. I let the flowers simmer for an hour, then let my flower stew sit until it cooled to let the maximum amount of colour infuse into the dye mix.
Once cooled, I strained the flowers out and added the wool. On to simmer again for another hour. Regular checking is required of course to make sure that there is enough liquid. After the hour is up, I put my pan outside to cool.
The pan was left outside overnight to soak up as much dye as possible. I liked the look of the colour thus far. I was cautiously optimistic that this would turn out well, and that the colour would not fade too much during rinsing. I took the plunge and rinsed my skein with cool water until no more dye came out, and laid it out to dry in a shady spot with good air flow.