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  • Writer's pictureSarah Matthess

Never Say Dye

Updated: Jun 22, 2020

Autumn is here, Summer is over, Winter is whilst there are dye plants to be gathered in the lanes, I am into 'squirrel syndrome'. Gathering up as much of the fading Summer plant-colour as I possibly can before it's all gone.

There's really no point in me trying to grow dye plants for a yellow dye because horsetail just grows everywhere around here. It's even poking up through my tarmac drive. I have no special recipe for this, and I've written about it before, but here we are again, a good old stand by at the end of the Summer.

No recipe as I said. Just get a big pot of water on the boil, and stuff in as much as you can. When it starts to go limp and boil down a bit, I add more, and carry on adding more until the pot just won't take any more. Its free, so why not have a good deep yellow whilst you're at it? I was pretty pleased with the yellow on this commercially spun sport-weight super wash merino.

Beech leaves were my next thought. Last week the woods near my house looked like this. The colours are fading and changing quite quickly now, so there are probably only a few more days/week of gathering.

Here's a bag full I gathered. I try to gather only a few from each tree.

In for an over-night soak before boiling them.

This picture below is really interesting. The 'locks' on the left are BFL lamb-locks (see on Etsy, )grown here in NI, and so soft you could make baby clothes with it. I love the subtle colour, but I love the butterscotch colour on the 4ply merino next to it too! (also on Etsy) The difference? The 4ply was dyed with leaves from the woods above which are really damp as a river runs right by them. I gathered them 2 weeks ago. The locks were dyed with leaves I gathered this week from much more mature trees and from a drier spot. The dye bath for both looked equally deep, but I have slightly different hues from each. Interesting!

Here are some batts that I carded up this morning ...

... onion skin at the top, beech leaves bottom left, and madder root waste, bottom right.

The weaving loom makes a great place to hang them all out

Ok, so you're saying to yourself 'I thought she knew how to spin'. I know this looks a bit of a mess as it is at present, but just you wait. This is going to be a new super-soft, all natural dye, locks and coils and you name it, art-yarn.

Aren't the locks above (middle) just amazing? I'm not sure I want to spin these as they are so gorgeous on their own just to look at in a pile. Onion skins and alum on blue-faced-Leceister lamb-locks (see the Etsy listing), Northern Ireland grown of course. Here's what I did with those yummy locks shown above on the right... (and a lot of other stuff)....

This is around 3-5wpi, depending where it's wrapped. Lots of locks, all very soft, from the Blue Faced Leicester, grown here in N Ireland. I have incorporated my onion skin dye, madder root and beech leaves to create this yarn.

Spinning this was made all the easier by the acquisition of a new bulky flier for my Kromski Symphony from Ann at Spinwise Thanks Ann! It works great, well packaged and arrived promptly.

I'm adding to the above post today, October 17th, 2015, the art yarn below is spun entirely from naturally dyed fibre, mainly the horsetail dye bath above, also logwood, and naturally coloured BFL. Teeswater locks, silk and merino as well. A really soft yarn, bulky, and mixed super coil, spiral ply and lock spinning.

The picture on the above right shows the olive green I got from the horsetail, pictured next to naturally coloured merino so you can see the contrast. I also obtained 2 other shades of yellow in the yarn above.

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