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Colours of the Country :-)

I love this time of year; all the colours, the light, the brightness, the sheer potential of all that's growing.
I also know that this is when I really start to be aware. Aware of where certain plants are growing, where they're thriving, and a vague timetable of when I'm going to forage it.
I do a lot of natural dyeing. I'm 'technically' an Archaeologist, but in reality these days I'm mostly a housewife with some very interesting friends
I did rather specialise in traditional textile skills; the whole gammut from growing to harvesting to fibre production to thread and yarn, then spinning, weaving, knitting, etc. and dyeing, natural dyeing, was a big part of my ethnobotany interests.

Just now I'm watching the elders budding, hawthorn, lady's bedstraw, weld, woad, alder, ivy, fomes, and the nettles.

The range of that which I consider to be normal British colours is surprisingly wide.
They cover the entire spectrum from yellows right through greens, blues, reds, plums, rusts and browns.

They don't need to poison the world around us to do it either. Unlike commercial dyes I won't use Chrome or Tin as a mordant (think fixative)
Both give beautiful sharp bright colours, but Tin forms organo-metallic compounds that are toxic and long term persistant in the environment.  To get a sharper orange ? Let's not go there (and I will come and be very nippy to anyone who claims to be a 'natural dyer' who does use it)
The other really bad news one is Chrome. Chrome causes feminisation of the invertebrates at the bottom end of the food chain. It's persistant in the environment and food chain once it gets a hold too. So, no, not that one either.
I do use Iron, Alum and Copper…..and will happily expound why if folks are interested, but your local sewage works (and your septic tank, etc., ) will deal with those if you are careful in your usage.

The hoops in the photos are of my dyes. This was one year's range.
I do find that the local water/plant sources do give different shades/tones/brightness from the dyestuffs but on the whole it's generally possible to say that within a certain range that that's the colour that one can achieve from a certain plant.

I can't be the only one who does this kind of thing on the forum ? It's always fun to see what someone else has managed to get good colour from.
I'd love to see what other folks make

Bodger said to "Start a new thread today; go on, give it a try!"
So, this is my contribution  




  very nice

I love those hoops of colours - I'm amazed that they can all be produced with nature's products.
What yarn do you use as the base?

Thank you
The wool used for most of those samples is the natural white coloured stuff that shows at the top of the bottom two hoops. It's New Lanark's Aran wool.
Otherwise my own handspun wool for this kind of thing is a grade of wool, rather than a variety. It's called English 56's and is both a good wool to spin or to use for dyeing, for knitting, weaving or with a little effort, felting.

I prefer Shetland for my handspinning, but when I was trying to show a range of colours it was easier to stick to one yarn for the samples.
Any white wool (or other animal fibre) will give that kind of range.
Dyeing on naturally coloured wool adds an entirely different sent of colours. Sometimes more muted, but sometimes much richer and deeper tones.
Some of the grey fleeces end up superb deep plum or intense dark blues.


I must show those hoops to someone in my knitting group - she 'grows' and spins her own wool from her shetland sheep and I know that she does some dyeing but I don't know to what extent.

At least 75% of British dyestuffs will give yellow
Honestly, when I first started doing this with real intent my family had an on-running joke that Mum could dye any colour possible, so long as it was yellow. It was like Ford cars  

However, if a copper mordant is used many of those yellows become greens
It's very easy to over dye too, so that one colour that's a bit hmmmmm can be dyed again in something deeper, like an exhausted (pretty much used up) madder dye bath and turn into something rather nice instead    

It's entirely possible to get bogged down in detail, in fussing with the 'right' wool, the 'right' time to pick, the 'right' boiling time, the 'right' quantities of mordant to dyestuff and materials.
It's not rocket science, it's pleasing, and hopefully stable, colours.
I try to dye with what I can grow, forage or barter for. So far, I'm pleased with the results

I think they are encouraging, and I think that anyone who has a pot or jar big enough to soak some wool in, can manage to get good colours.
My only caveat would be that the folks who sell mordants are in business, they want to sell you a lot. You really do not need a lot, and you can make your own very simply anyway.
Patience works very well indeed in natural dyeing and the wool won't mind being left wet for weeks on end (just not in iron!)  It's how the folks who lichen dyed originally did it.

I'd love to see what other folks dye with natural dyes


Ooh lovely stuff!  
This is definitely my favourite time of year, especially if the weather is good enough to be outside and soak it all in.
Natural dying is definitely on my list of things to try, but I know lots of people that do it already and seeing it being done and getting to poke stuff about is nearly as good as doing it all yourself. Woad is magical.  
I do a bit of spinning, more on a drop spindle than a wheel these days, and tablet weaving. I'm currently working on a warp for a vertical warp weighted loom, as well as TW braid - I never seem to have enough! As you've probably guessed, I do a bit of living history reenactment.  

I do have proper looms and rigid heddle looms too, but you can't beat backstrapping TW for portable weaving!
Yorkshire Geordie

Alkanet roots have been used for aeons as a supply of red dye.

This site details quite a lot of natural sources:-


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