Natural Dyeing: Colours from the Supermarket

This is the second part of my roundup of all the different natural dyes I have been experimenting on during the past year. The first part was about collecting yourself from the nature, but not everybody has the luxury of getting to collect from nature themself’s.  There are a lot of choices in the normal supermarkets as well. I love dyeing outside on the open fire when I´m at our summer cottage, but most of the time I live in small flat in the city. All you really need is a large pot that is used only for natural dyeing, strainer, some mordants like alum, kitchen weigh, maybe a thermometer and a visit to a supermarket.
from the kitchen

Onion skins are probably the best know source of colour and I think they are pretty amazing. There is so much pigment in the skins and the colours are really strong and varied. I tried both regular onion skins and red onion skins.  Black beans where an interesting experiment. There where some hits and misses but the blue colours where beautiful, you can read about part one and two here and here. Turmeric was a very spontaneous experiment and the colour came out strong. Beetroot and red gabbage where interesting but the colours are sadly fugitive. What should I try next?

bought from the shops

I also did some online shopping and bought walnut shellsmadder powder and cochineal. The colours are pretty, but for some reason the dyeing process is not a satisfying for me if I just order things online. It’s a lot more fun to make the dye yourself. I quess I love the hunt.

Natural dyeing: Early Bird Gets the Worm

The spring is on it’s way and I know that it’s much further away in other parts of the world that are more south. Spring and the early summer are ideal time for natural dyeing. When you are collecting different leaves and plants that’s when you get the strongest, the most vibrant colours. Snatch the plant’s early in the growing season.

In Finland the best time to collect plants is around the end of May and the beginning of June. Sadly this year I’m going to totally miss this time, because in this month I’m going on a road trip across the US and I wont be back to Finland until the end of June. But that’s okay because I couldn’t be more exited about the trip. This doesn’t stop me from giving tips to other people. I thought that I would look back at my first year of natural dyeing and all the different things I have used in dyeing. To this first part I have collected the things that I collected from the nature myself.

greens from the leaves

Yellow is the easiest colour to achieve with natural dyes. I think that most green leaves and plants give yellow colour (not all and some more than others). Most greens that I have got (above) are green because I have used grey yarn instead of white.  Only exception is the lupine, the yarn was originally white and the colour turned out pale green. I have seen an almost neon green/yellow colour from lupines that where picked up early in the summer. As I said earlier the better. The birch leaves and the heather where dyed early in the summer, meadowsweet, fireweed and cow parsley much later. Obviously other factors have a lot to do with the end results, like where the plant has grown, in what kind of soil and how much you collect them. Natural dyeing is not exact science.

colours of earth

I got some lovely brown colours from lichen and juniper bark. Every country has their own laws, in Finland you need to ask permission from the land owner if you are going to collect moss, lichen or subshruds such as heather. Everything else you can collect from where ever you want, but it’s good to respect nature anyway. I was very lucky that the back yard of our summer cottage offers lots of different kids of plants to use. When the fall came I went to the woods to hunt cortinarius semisanguineus also known as suprise webcap. The colour that you get from them is so pretty! I want to find more of them next fall. I also need to find an old and mossy spruce forest so I can find bloodred webcaps. And I feel that I’m going to experiment with mushrooms more in general.

Natural Dyeing: Cochineal

A couple of weeks ago I dyed some yarn using cochineal. I did try cochineal a year ago, but I used the powder and this time I used whole dried cochineal bugs.


I had now idea how to use these so I followed instructions from Riihivilla blog, I bought the cochineal from Leenas web shop and she has written a really comprehensive and detailed blog post about it (read it here) both Finnish and English and I’m not going to repeat it here. In short cochineal is an insect that has been used for centuries in dyeing things red, it originates from South-America. You can get it also in powder form, but as Leena says in her blog post it’s easier to clean up the equipment when you use whole dried ones and after trying both I agree. Cochineal has a lot of pigment in it and with the powder everything tends to get red. Plus I think using the dried bugs is more interesting although maybe also a bit more gross.


The dried out bugs interest a curious cat who interrupts my photo-shoot session.


With the whole cochineal bugs you have to let them soak in hot water overnight to  maximize the colour. You can get the exact measurements from Leenas blog. The other thing I found interesting is the fact that when dyeing with cochineal you should actually use quite high temperatures unlike with madder. I usually keep the temperature under 80 °C so the wool yarn will not suffer. This time I forgot to monitor the temperature and the dye bath actually started boiling. The yarn was okay though and before when the temperature was lower the colour of the yarn was definitely more orange. I guess the red pigments fix to the fibers in higher temperatures.


I used the dye bath for a second time and got a lighter pink colour. After this I could clearly see that I wasn’t going to get anymore colour out of the dye bath. It was very neat and clean, just shift the cochineal bugs away, give the pot a little wash and your done. I took another good advice from Leenas blog and I let the yarns dry first before rinsing them, she says that that way the colour sticks better to the yarn.


Easter Part 2

I got a bit exited about the wheatgrass, it has taken over my kitchen. I needed to have something green, especially when it started snowing outside again. I dyed some Easter eggs as well. The yellows are dyed with turmeric. I boiled turmeric in water for about 10 minutes. Then I added some salt and vinegar and let the emptied eggs  soak in the dye for over night. The pink colour is red food colouring and the turquoise blue is  actually green food colouring (why it turned blue, I don’t know). I found this video on youtube on how to make tie-dye Easter eggs. Mine didn’t work out quite as well, but I like the colours of these four together. At least I have spring inside when it’s snowing outside.







Easter decorations

I haven’t done a lot of creative things lately apart from a crochet project that is turning quite long. But this week I got an inspiration for Easter decorations. I took some willow branches, put then into a glass jar and made little bobbles out of some of the naturally dyed yarns I have. I also planted some wheatgrass. I’m feeling a bit impatient because I want them to grow fast. I’m so happy the spring is here!IMG_6619_2







Natural Dyeing: Red Onion Skins

January has been a very busy month for me and I haven’t had time to do anything creative. I’m hoping that things will change in February. I did have time for one experiment though. I did dye with normal onion skins last summer (read about it here) but I didn’t try red onion skins until now. I heard that the colour you get from them is green. I think mine turned out more brownish with a hint of yellow.


You need a quite a lot of onion skins if you want to dye yarn with them. I don’t eat that much onions so I headed to a big supermarket. I know that they have these boxes underneath the onions where all the onion skins will drop. I asked from the saleswomen if I could get them for myself as they are going to the trash anyway. She was very helpful and I got three plastic bags full of normal onion skins and one with red onion skins. The cashier did give me a very curious look when I turned up with my treasures, I think I’m in danger of getting a bit of a crazy reputation.


In the end I had 65 g of red onion skins that I put into a pot, added some water and let them soak for a day. Then I boiled the skins in the same water for two hours and forgot the skins for another day. Then I shifted the skins away and added some yarn.


I used 50 g of 100% wool yarn that I had previously mordanted with alum and the cream of tartar. I kept the temperature under 80 °C. I think the colour is a bit olive. It’s weird because the yarn looks greenish in daylight, but brown in electric light, that’s natural dye for you.


Into the same pot I threw in a tiny bit of unmordanted wool to see the difference. And that yarn is definitely more reddish brown colour.



I forgot the dye bath for couple of days and though that I try to dye some more yarn in it. This yarn was also premordanted with alum and the cream of tartar. I accidentally let the temperature get higher then with the previous one. Wool doesn’t really like temperatures that are too hot but the colour turned out stronger and browner then the first one. I think I could have tried to dye more but I ran out of yarn.


Natural Dyeing: Madder

It’s the New Year and it’s time to say goodbye to Christmas decorations (which I still haven’t had time to clear out). I did the first natural dyeing experiment of 2015 using madder powder. I have used it couple of times to give a little kick to some other dye baths but I have never dyed just with it. Madder powder is made from madder roots which is one of the oldest sources of natural dyes. I’ve heard that it’s possible to grow it in southern Finland. Some day when I have a garden I will give it a try.


I had a small sample piece and a recipe I followed. I dyed 100 g of 100% wool yarn. I had mordanted the yarn previously with alum and the cream of tartar. I put 10 litres of water into a big pot and added 20 grams of madder powder in it. I added the wet yarn to the pot and let it stay in the pot for 1 hour. I kept the temperature quite low around 60-70°C.


I was expecting more of an orange colour but the end result is actually pink. But that is the interesting part with madder. Apparently with low temperatures you get more red colours and with higher temperatures more yellows and browns. I tried to reuse the bye bath, but the colour was not getting very strong so I added more madder powder into it. I want to have another try to get orange/brow with madder with using higher temperatures.  Although I really like this pink colour aswell.


DIY Christmas Decorations

I can’t believe that Christmas is so near now! Where did the time go? I had so many Christmas related plans and I only had time to do half of them. These Christmas decorations where among the few. Browsing around Pinterest I came across quite a few similar kind of decorations to, mostly made out of felt. I made mine out of cotton fabric and embroidered the pattern with a cotton yarn. It’s been years sense I’ve done any embroidery and I did feel a bit Jane Austin like. The whole proses was quite fun and I wish I would have had time for more. I wanted some very simple red and white decorations to make things more Christmassy around and they did.







I also hung some of the crochet snowflakes from last year to my bedroom window. I have hoped for white Christmas and looks like my wish will come true. The snow arrived yesterday and covered the ground, now it’s really beginning to look like Christmas. I wish you a lovely Christmas time, where ever you are in the world and however you are going to spend it. Hyvää Joulua!

DIY Scented Candles


This was not the first time I’ve made candles, but this was the first time I did it by myself in my own home. For some reason I thought that making candles is difficult. It really isn’t! That said this experiment was not entirely successful. My life at the moment is filled with candles as through my job I work with them almost daily.  Naturally I have gain interest in the materials and the making of candles. I read this blog post in the Hello Natural blog and I thought that I’ll have to try to make scented candles myself. I’ve had these metallic muffin tins in my cupboard for years and I thought they would make lovely candles as I never use them in cooking anyway.


Another reason I wanted to make candles was the fact that I have wanted to try out soy candles for a long time. I was curious to know are they any different from paraffin or stearin. I like the idea of all natural candles, so I ordered some soy wax online.


I boiled some water in a pot and melted the wax in a separate bowl that I put inside the pot.


If there is something I have learned about candles it is that it’s very important to have a right sized wick.  If the wick is too thin the flame will melt more wax than it can burn and the candle will drip. If the wick is too thick the flame is going to be too big and the candle will release smoke. The thickness of the wick should be chosen in relation to the size of the candle. The cotton wick that I chose was meant for 60-70mm wide candles. I also bought some metal wick taps for the wicks. I put a little bit of hot glue to the bottom of the wick tap a glued the wick to the muffin tin. I used wooden grill sticks to keep the wick straight.


The blog post that I mentioned earlier was for chai scented candles and for the scent was used ordinary spices. I used cinnamon, ginger and cardamom.


Now this is where I think I went wrong as I didn’t really manage to get the scent to work. Later on I read that the temperature of the wax is very important when you are adding scents. I did two separate tries. First time I didn’t think about the temperature at all and there were actually very nice smells floating around the kitchen, but the candle itself didn’t work. Then I read that you might end up burning the scents off if you use temperatures that are too hot. During my second try I was a bit scared of making the wax too hot and I think that the spices didn’t mix with the wax very well. I even added some extra spice to get a stronger scent. It didn’t really work though. What is the right temperature for this? I read that you should keep the wax under 80 °C I think mine was around 60 to 70 °C.


After that I poured the wax to the containers. I also tried some glass baby food jars. During my second try I read that the containers should be warm so I put them in the oven for a little while before poring the wax in. I don’t know if it made any difference.


And then I let the candles set and cool off.


Here are the ready made candles. I also did two small paraffin candles. I used leftovers from a paraffin candle I’ve been burning lately. I melted the wax and added some spices. Because I like experimenting I wanted to test how soy wax and paraffin wax really act differently.


I must say that the paraffin candle had a better and bigger flame (on the left) put it also burned a lot faster. The soy candle (on the right) lasted a lot longer. The melted wax acts also very differently. Paraffin wax is a petroleum by-product created when crude oil is refined into gasoline. Soy wax is made from soybeans. The paraffin wax sets and cools off a lot faster than soy wax. Soy wax is very buttery when melted and it’s quite soft even when it’s solid. Paraffin sets very quickly into plastic-like consistency. Makes total sense when you think about the origins of the two materials.





Although my my first experiment in the candle making was not completely successful, I really like the candles even without the scent. I might have a another try in the future, maybe with some essential oils. I don’t think I will have any candle shortage for a little while. Do you have any candle making tips for me?

DIY Christmas Wreath

It’s almost December, so now I can officially go nuts about Christmas. I’ve had so many Christmas related ideas for months. I had never done a Christmas wreath myself before but luckily my friend and flatmate Riikka had. We dedicated an evening for crafting a wreath for kitchen window, whilst listening Christmas songs, obviously . I’m very proud of our collaboration project. The wreath turned out so pretty!




So how to make a Christmas wreath? First you need some fresh and springy willow branches that you start twisting around each other. Attach them together with wire.


Then find the right size for the wreath and close the circle.


Continue twisting more willow branches around the circle until the base is sturdy enough.


We used a quite a wide arrange of different things to our wreath; spruce twigs , heather, thuja twigs and twigs that are either lingonberry or northern bilberry (I’m not sure). For decoration we added some rowan berries and pine cones.


First you start making little bunches of twigs and securing them with wire.


Then start attaching them to the willow base with wire. This is the phase where you get to be creative.


Eetu was begin very helpful through the whole process. Such a curious cat, he also wanted to take part in this project.






Finally we did some trimming and final touches. We also added some fairy lights. The wreath was very beautiful by itself, but because we were going to hang it to our kitchen window, which this time of year is most of the time pitch black, we needed some light.



Little by little it’s starting to look like Christmas here. Thanks for Riikka for teaching me how to do a Christmas wreath and helping with the photos.