Dyeing to meet you (sorry!)

We’d had several days of gorgeous weather – hot, dry, perfect for our dyeing picnic. And then the day itself dawned. Grey. And drizzle – the first drizzly dyeing day for seven years. But a couple of marquees and a good solid shed helped, and we carried on regardless.

Lots of people brought dyestuffs along, from onion skins to plums, from madder to a mystery golden bark found in a wood pile and kept in water for weeks to make a dye bath. These are madder root and forsythia leaves beginning to bubble:

The forsythia was an interesting experiment, and we also had a pot of greater celandine roots which had produced a gorgeous yellow earlier in the season:

but we all later agreed that they were best used fresh. The pots, by the way, also contained some rhubarb leaves to act as a mordant – quicker that way.

The basic idea was to try natural-dyeing coloured wool, but there’s nothing hard and fast about a dyeing picnic, and there were some lovely cream commercial yarns being dyed as well as many different versions of coloured handspun. Some people had used different colours for plying with, which had some interesting results. And as we pulled our skeins from the dyepots and rinsed them off, we discovered an upside to the drizzly day: the marquee struts made a perfect yarn dryer.

Most of these skeins were dyed with comfrey.

We also had some woad bubbling away:

and this produced the usual wonderment among those who were new to dyeing – we had several guest members – as the skeins were carefully removed from the pot and then swung about to allow the colour to develop.

And what about the end results? well, they were enormously variable, as you’d expect. These are some commercial yarns, containing silk (yummy):

And some variegated skeins:

And some drying on a more improvised support than a marquee:

A great day!
Who needs fabulous weather?


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