Natural Dyeing: Lupine

Lupine is not really a native Finnish plant (it originates from the North America). Still it has taken over the country slowly but steadily during the past 200 years. It cannot be denied that Lupine has become a fixed site on the Finnish landscape, especially on the roadsides. Some people still regard it as unwelcomed weed but I think it is one of the nicest looking weeds there is. The colour I got out of it was quite pretty as well. There are many ways to do plant dyeing. The technique is still pretty new to me and I’m in no means an expert but this is how I have been doing it so far. I’m not the kind of person who loves measurements and exact monitoring of temperatures. Often I go with the gut feeling and don’t bother with thermometers or digital scales.

1. I collected 1 kg of lupines. I used the whole plant; leaves, stems and flowers. I put them into a 10 litre pot and filled it with water, just enough to cover the lupines and I boiled them for two hours.

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2. I dyed 100 g of white 100% wool yarn. Before dyeing I mordanted the yarn with alum. This step is to ensure that the colour will stick to the yarn better and that it will be stronger.

I used 10 g of alum. That is 10% from the weight of the dry yarn. I added alum to lukewarm water and then added wet yarn in. I brought the water to boil and after that kept the temperature at around 80 °C. Wool yarn does not like to be boiled and boiling can also evaporate the alum into the air when the alum should be absorbed into the yarn. I just checked that the water was not bubbling and let the yarn stay in the pot for one hour.  It’s important to stir the yarn every now and then to ensure an even distribution of alum.

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3. After two hours the colour had dissolved into the water from the lupines and the dye bath was ready to be sifted. The dye bath should be left to cool for a bit before adding the yarn but I don’t always have the patience. Sometimes if I don’t have time to continue the  dyeing on the same day, I will leave the plants in the water and wait for the next day to continue.

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4. After mordanting the yarn I transferred the wet yarn into the dye bath. I brought the dye to boil but  after that kept the temperature around 80 °C. I left the yarn in the liquid for one hour, stirring it every ones in a while to ensure an even colour.

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5. When the dyeing process was done I rinsed the yarn until no more colour dissolved from the yarn. If the colour keeps on dissolving  it’s good to add some vinegar to the rinsing water.

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5. And finally I let the yarn dry. It’s important not to dry it in sunlight because the sun fades natural dyed yarns and fabrics.

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And this is the end result, a lovely light green. I have seen an almost neon green colour out of lupin but those lupins where collected in the early June whereas mine where later in June. So many different factors affect the result, the time of year, the soil and the growing conditions as well as the quality of the yarn. All and all I was pretty happy with my first natural dyeing experience that I did on my own. Stay tuned for more!

lupiinillavärjäys

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Natural Dyeing

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Hi! My name is Marjo. I’m a freshly graduated Finnish Textile Designer. I tend to get really excited and absorbed in to new techniques and projects may it be gardening knitting or cooking. In the beginning of the summer I took part in natural dyeing class and got really excited about it. I packed my bags, left the city behind and retired to a family summer cottage and really got in to the world of natural dyes. I feel that I have only scratched the surface but I’m definitely hooked. I started this blog because I wanted to share my experiences in natural dyeing and other passions in my life.

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I had some preconceptions about natural dyeing, that it is difficult, uncertain and that the results are mostly pale. I was soon proved wrong. It’s true that natural dyeing takes some time and patience, but the process itself is quite simple. Of course the results are not as precise as with shop bought dyes. Although we know that with birch tree leaves you get yellowish green and with onion shells orange or yellow the dyeing results are different every time. But I think that’s part of the fun.

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Many different individual factors effect what the dyeing result will be: what time of year it is, where has the plant grown and in what conditions and what kind of yarn is been used. I think the colours are so beautiful and varied! And they all go together perfectly. I was surprised how vibrant and strong the colours can be.

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In this blog I will be sharing with you my experiences so far. I hope you enjoy and if you have experience in natural dyeing I’ll be more than happy to hear about your experiences and get some tips. And vice verse if you are new to the technique, hopefully this blog will be useful to you and get you trying. I think it’s so much fun! I also feel that in a world where we can by almost everything ready made it’s important to value old skills and keep traditions alive. I have always loved nature and it is a very important part of my life, but during these past weeks I have realised that my knowledge of different plants is still quite limited and I have learned a lot about the nature around me.

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