During the winter, it’s nice to snuggle up with a sewing, knitting, tatting or crochet project. Why not plan ahead to dye your project yourself with natural colors from your yard? Try to make your project using natural fabrics and yarns whenever possible, such as cottons and wools. By the time spring arrives, you should have some items set aside and ready to dye.
Before dyeing, you will need to prepare your item to help it hold the color you will be using. A very simple fixative can be used, or for more professional results (especially important when you are dyeing skeins of spun wool) you should use a true mordant. Different types of dyes will require different types of mordants.
If you are using berries for color, you can make a simple fixative of 8 cups cold water and a half cup of salt. If you are using plant materials, mix 8 cups cold water with 2 cups of vinegar. Add your item, and simmer for an hour. Rinse and gently squeeze out excess water.
When gathering your plant materials, try to get the juciest berries, ripest nuts, and flowers in full bloom for best results. Bring your materials inside and chop them into small pieces. Place them in an old pot (yes, it’s another use for old pots!). Add water to equal twice as much as your plant materials. Soft water is best, and if you are able to collect rain water for this project, please do so! Bring mixture to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for at least an hour. Strain out the plant materials. The liquid left behind is your dye.
Place your damp item in the dye bath. Simmer gently to help the color take. Keep in mind that the item will dry to a lighter shade than you are seeing in the pot. If you wish, you can turn off the heat and leave the item in the dye overnight.
Wearing gloves, gently remove your item from the dye. Don’t twist it or treat it roughly, but gently rinse it in a clear water bath, and then squeeze it to remove the bulk of the water.