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.
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?
I also did some online shopping and bought walnut shells, madder 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.
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.
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.
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.