Natural Dyeing: Cow Parsley, Meadowsweet and Fireweed

During my summer of natural dyeing I have found many plants from which you can get similar kinds of shades of yellow and green. Usually white yarns turn to yellow and grey yarns to green. I have collected some of them in here. All the yarns displayed have been mordanted previously with alum (read about it here.) I used the same technique as I did when dyeing with lupine (read about it here.)


I collected the cow parsley early in the summer when they were blooming. The result was not the most intensive one but still pretty.











Both meadowsweet (on the left) and fireweed (on the right) were collected early in June when they were not yet blooming.




Natural Dyeing: Heather

I did a little weekend trip to the summer cottage and dyed with heather for the second time. I was curious to see what the difference is when I use heather from the beginning of June and from late August.




I don’t think this is the most scientific of experiments, but I did collect heather from the same place I collected the last time and I also used the same wool yarn. The yarn on the right is from the early June and the one on the left is from the middle of August. The colour was definitely more intensive in June, but the second colour is still beautiful.


I also coloured grey wool yarn and the result was beautiful green colour. Heather has quickly become one of my favourite plats to use in natural dyeing.



I have noticed that this Norwegian wool yarn (Viking Naturgarn) repeats the colours really beautifully. I mordanted the yarn beforehand with alum (read about it here). Before starting to boil the heather I let it soak in the water overnight, after that the process was similar to dyeing with lupine (read about it here.)

Natural dyeing: Heather, Onion Skins and Birch Leaves

I took class on natural dyeing in the beginning of the summer and I though I share some of the things I dyed there. All of the plants I used for the colouring where collected in the beginning of June. Beginning of the summer is a great time for plant dyeing because the colours are more vibrant the earlier it is in the plants growing season (at least here in the north). The yarns I used where all 100% wool yarns and they were mordanted with alum. Read about mordanting here.


I used about 280 g of heather and dyed 108 g of wool yarn. First I soaked the heather in water over night. Then I boiled the heather in the same water for two hours. After that I dyed the yarn by boiling it in the sifted colour liquid for one hour.




For these yarns I used the liquid dye that was made out of onion skins. This was the third time that liquid was used. I added 3 g of madder powder and 1 g of cream of tartar to the liquid and I dyed 40 g of yarn. This really brightens the orange colour up. Check out my post for dyeing with onion skins here.




I used 319 g of birch tree leaves and dyed 73 g of wool yarn. You do need a quite a lot of leaves for dyeing a lot of yarn. I boiled the leaves in water for two hours and then I dyed the yarn by boiling it in the sifted colour liquid for one hour. To get a bright green colour like this, it’s important to use early leaves from the beginning of the summer.



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.





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!