Archive for Natural Dyeing

Homespun: A Treasure Rediscovered


In the Winter 2017 Spin Off, I found an article called “Homespun Heritage”. The article highlighted the 1975 documentary film “Homespun” by Sharon and Tom Hudgins; they  filmed local folks from the southern Appalachian Mountains shearing sheep, washing, carding spinning, dyeing and weaving wool. Now, thanks to the  National Archives , the film is available via YouTube.  Take a look!


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A Garden to Dye For: Book Review

Since I am very interested in natural dyeing, I am always on the lookout for new titles.  A Garden to Dye for: How to Use Plants from the Garden to Create Natural Colors for Fabrics & Fibers by Chris McLauglin is both beautiful and informative; it is a wonderful combination of gardening and dyeing. The book also includes a plans for designing a dye garden.  If you are interested in natural dyeing, why not try growing your own dye plants.  I have a bag of coreopsis (tickseed) and marigold blooms from last year in my freezer waiting for the dye pot.  I am planning to use them soon and yes I have coreopsis and marigolds growing in my garden now. The book is divided into several categories including a section on dyeing with herbs and a recipe for dyeing with black beans.  Who knew you could dye with beans?


Check out the review from


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What’s the Madder? Dyeing with Madder Root

Last year at the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival, I purchased a natural dyeing starter kit from Earth Guild.  I am enchanted with natural dyeing, so I thought this would be a great way to get started.  I decided to try dyeing with madder root.

I soon found out that madder root is tricky.  Many factors can influence the final outcome: soil, age of roots, temperature of the dye bath (too hot will pull out the browns shades), using whole roots or ground roots and hardness of your water.  If your water is too soft, some dyers recommend adding calcium carbonate to the dye liquid.

Here’s my process for dying with madder root:

At first I soaked the whole roots in a large glass container for about two days.  Then I poured off the liquid to remove the brown hues.  Since I was refreshing the water, I decided to chop up the roots using an old coffee bean grinder; it works great even on wet roots. I borrowed a large grain sock from my husband’s beer making equipment and stuffed the ground up roots inside.  My previous experiments have taught me to be careful about what goes into the dye pot with roving.  Otherwise, you will spend a lot time picking out pieces of root debris.  Again, I let the liquid stew for several days.  Finally, I added my corriedale roving to the dye pot.

Since my previous adventures with natural dyeing have resulted in varying shades of yellow, even thought the package predicted shades of red or orange (see eucalyptus post), I decided not to mordant the wool. If I did mordant the wool, I may have gotten stronger red tones.  In the end, I am happy with my results……no yellow hues!


Corriedale roving dyed with Madder Root

Corriedale roving dyed with Madder Root


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Dyeing with Eucalyptus: Dyeing Day

Roving Dyed with Eucalyptus

Roving Dyed with Eucalyptus

Well, last weekend we finally decided to try dyeing with eucalyptus.  Unfortunately, our results were not the desirable shades of red and orange but rather a buttery beige.  After surfing the web, we discovered many variables can affect the final color when dyeing with eucalyptus. The color depends on: what season the eucalyptus is harvested, how much rain,  the proportion of eucalyptus to the fiber, mineral content in the water (we used rain water) soaking time and species.  In our case, we have no idea when the eucalyptus was harvested or what species but we did follow the package instructions.

To our surprise, Jenny Dean, an experienced natural dyer, didn’t get beautiful shades of red or orange either when she tried dyeing with eucalyptus from her garden.  Jenny has written several books: Wild Colour and The Craft of Natural Dyeing just to name a few.  They are definitely worth checking out if you are interested in natural dyeing.

Well, maybe we will try this again in the future.

For additional information:

Silver Dollar Eucalyptus:  this recipe includes potential results with various mordants and interesting experiences from other dyers.

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Dyeing with Eucalyptus: Making the dye solution

Well, today was a very rainy day here in Baltimore. But it was a good day to begin our first adventure into natural dyeing. This past May we attended the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival, we discovered eucalyptus leaves can be used for natural dyeing.  This peaked our curiosity! So, we purchased a packet of crushed eucalyptus leaves from the Stony Mountain Fibers of Charlottesville, VA.  According to the directions, the dye color range is reds to orange.  A word of caution when preparing the dye bath, eucalyptus smells very strong when heated (very strong menthol).

How to make the dye bath*:

*This recipe has been modified according to the weight of eucalyptus leaves in our packet.

  • 4 ounces eucalyptus leaves
  • 3 quarts of warm water

We placed the eucalyptus leaves in a cheesecloth bag (previously used to hold grains for beer making, very handy) and covered the leaves with 3 quarts of warm water.  Since we used collected rain water, the water was briefly heated before adding the leaves.  Then the mixture soaked for several hours in a stainless steel dye pot. The next step was to heat the dye bath for 1 hour (simmer).  Finally, the dye bath was cooled and stored for later use.

The next step is to mordant the wool in preparation for dyeing.  Our fiber of choice is corriedale roving.

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