Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Natural Dye

We have a ton of beautiful sunflowers in our yard. They came up voluntarily, apparantly from wild seeds washed in through the irrigation.

No, really, I mean a ton! Enough for a whole sunflower forest, complete with secret tunnel...and that's not even showing the huge sunflower plants that have grown up in my garden and various other places in the yard.

So...Michaelmas is coming, and we have been charmed by the idea of dying our own golden capes. Trouble is, we don't have any marigolds. Hmmm. Would sunflowers work? We decided to experiment. We started with a whole bunch of whole sunflower heads...

which resulted in this lovely yellow-green, but not really what we were going for.

Then we tried sunflower petals mixed with Mexican Bird of Paradise blossoms and buds.

The pot looked beautiful, the water was kind of murkey, but turned a lovely orangy-pink when I stirred in a sprinkle of citric acid. But when we added the wool, it just didn't seem to be holding the color. We boiled for quite a while, but it just turned out light beige....hmm...


Finally we decided to try just sunflower petals. Just the petals! Nothing else! So tons more flowers were picked. This time we decided to put in a silk scarf too. It was looking very promising, I added a little sprinkle of Tumeric for some intensity....

Now that is color!!! Wow! I couldn't believe how bright it turned out! Now, I don't know how much is sunflowers and how much the Tumeric, but I had a whole pot of sunflower petals and maybe a 1/4 tsp. of tumeric, if that. Anyway, the result is definitely sunflower yellow!

Here are the results, left to right: Sunflower petals and tumeric; onion skins (I only had a tiny bit, so we just did one little pot. It turned out a gorgeous golden color!); sunflower petals and Mexican bird of paradise; sunflower heads.
All the wool and silk was pre-boiled in half water and half white vinegar with a teaspoon of alum added for color fastness. We pre-boiled for one hour, at the same time pre-boiling the flowers for one hour. Then we strained off most of the petals and added the rinsed wool and silk. We then boiled this mixture for about another hour. With the onion skins, though, I just added the pre-boiled wool into the pot with a handful of onion skins and boiled the whole thing for about 45 minutes.
We are thinking that this weekend for our Michaelmas capes, we will do the sunflower petals and tumeric with a few onion skins added for a deeper yellow...All 5 kids demanded to be a part of it! I didn't think the older 3 would want yellow silk capes, but I thought wrong! They still love dress-up!

8 comments:

Tammy said...

Those are all very pretty colors. My fave is the one with the turmeric, though. :)

fawndear said...

Gorgeous colors.
And anyone who doesn't love to dress up needs to go and find their inner child and give them a good squeeze.

Nicole said...

Oh, Beth! This is incredibly gorgeous!
From start to finish I love love this entire process, thank you for sharing such beauty! I also am looking forward to Michaelmas : )

renee ~ heirloom seasons said...

I love all the results! We have the same sunflowers. Hundreds and hundreds, even growing in the gravel driveway. The birds sure are enjoying them these days! I was also unsure whether to use the whole flower head or petals only, and have not done any experimenting yet. Thanks so much for sharing.
Happy Autumn!

willie and camie shill said...

wow, can you do everything!

Ros said...

ahhh, the rest of the story!

Lucy didn't let me in on the adventure when I complimented her on her cape!

how fun...

Linda said...

Beth, I have just seen this post! How did I miss it, it is so beautiful. I am so excited that you are dyeing with natural dyes! It is such fun, and what lovely vibrant colour :)

Warmly

Linda

suzanne said...

Hello Beth

I am now inspired to dye my own wool and fleece too. I have just brought a spinning wheel and would love to try this. I am sure there must be so many wonderful natural dyes to experiment with.

Have a wonderful day
Warm regards
Suzanne