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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!