Autumn colours: Onion skins and Pomegranate Peel

I have been quite inspired by the beautiful autumn colours lately. I have been going through my collection of naturally dyed yarns and I’m determined to use them in my next project which is a traditional Scandinavian rya (ryijy) rug or a wall hanging. But I noticed that I didn’t have enough of orange and yellow colours that I wanted. Luckily I always keep a jar full of onion skins in my kitchen cupboard. Don’t we all? I always save up all the onion skins we use in cooking. So I did some dyeing with onion skins.

This time I used yellow onion skins. I have made a blog post about the process of dyeing wool yarn with onion skins here. I used the same exact method, so I won’t repeat it here. I have also written about red onion skins which give a surprising, but beautiful colour, you can read about it here. And I have also written about dyeing cotton fabric with onion skins which is slightly different, you can read about it here and here.
It always surprises me how different materials take the colour differently. A very fine merino wool gave a very strong orange and more coarse wool more of a mustard yellow. Both are beautiful colours. The greens I got with dyeing gray yarn. Basic color theory blue (or grey in this) + yellow = green. I find it fun to dye yarns that already have a base colour because you can get surprising results.  
I wrote my bachelor theses last spring about natural dyeing and I came across with a scientific article where they came to a conclusion that pomegranate is one of the best ingredients in natural dyeing to dye with out mordanting. Pomegranate peel has a lot of natural tannin that helps the colours to fix. I really hope that I would remember if I use mordanted yarn or not with this, but the truth is that I really don’t. This was back in the June and it’s October now, I really should have made notes. This is partly what this blog is for me. Notes that I can go back to when I want to remember how I did something.  
This was a funny result. I had no idea what material this yarn was, but I think it was a mix of wool and acrylic or something similar. The manmade fibers didn’t take the colour and actually it looks nice!

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!

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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.

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

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

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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.

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

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

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

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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.

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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.

Let it snow: crochet snowflakes

I started this project a year ago in November. I love Christmas and I usually start thinking about it during November. Last year it occurred to me that in my family we have used the same Christmas tree decorations for over 20 years. I felt that change would be good and got really excited about crocheting snowflakes. I started in November and continued crocheting until Christmas so that I would have enough of snowflakes to fill the tree. I didn’t get the white Christmas I wanted but at least there were snowflakes in our living room. I really liked the simplicity of the Christmas tree with the white snowflakes and electric candles.  Now I’m wondering if should I stick with just the snowflakes or add something else as well? I have a few ideas floating around.

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I found the process of crocheting these snowflakes really therapeutic. As a technique I actually prefer crocheting to hand knitting because of the freedom it gives you. I found the patterns online, most of them from this website. I started out with this very informative and easy tutorial on Youtube, so I could get myself acquainted with the English crocheting vocabulary and follow the patterns. I used white cotton yarn and stiffened the snowflakes with a water and glue mix.

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Pattern in Finnish. 

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Bamboo snowflake pattern.

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Snowflake for Marikamum pattern.

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Crochet snowflake tutorial on Youtube.

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Irish hearts snowflake pattern (on the right).

Natural Dyeing: Juniper bark

There was one small juniper tree  that had come to the end of its journey growing at our yard. I was interested to try what kind of colour I could get from its bark. Stripping the trunks was surprisingly easy. All I really needed to do was to pull the bark out with my bare hands.  I let the bark soak in water for one day before boiling it for one hour. Rest of the process was similar to dyeing with lupine (read about it here.) Boiling juniper bark smells really good! I’m serious, if somebody develops a juniper scented perfume I’m the first one to buy it! The colour was pretty too.

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I think this brown colour is really pretty. All the yarns I used are wool yarns and were mordanted beforehand with alum.

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I reused the dye for the second time but added madder powder into it . This gave the yarn it’s redness.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

HEATHER

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.

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ONION SKINS

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.

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BIRCH LEAVES

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.

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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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