Beet-le Juice

Is it weird that looking at this stack of yarn cakes, makes me really happy?

From top to bottom, these were dyed with: coffee, roses, beets and tumeric.

Those of you who followed me on Twitter (or paid attention to the scroll on the RH column of this blog) over the weekend, know that I spent the majority of it, elbow deep in natural dye baths.  I think it’s fair to say, that I’m currently obsessed.  I had so much fun experimenting that now, no color-bearing plant, fruit or vegetable is safe in my presence! 😉

I had varying degrees of success with different ingredients (tumeric=awesome, spinach=bomb).  I’m assuming that the failures can be credited in part, to my ratios sometimes being off.  It’s likely though, that the quality of wool I was working will played a small part as well.  All of the yarn you see pictured is from 1, thrifted sweater that I unraveled and washed.  In it’s former life, it was a mass-produced GAP number but in Eco-Stitch (due out Fall ’09), it will be 3, unique baby items.  I’m excited about the added element of stretching yardage in a creative way, that the dyeing/repurposing aspect will bring to the book.  It makes creating beautiful, non-toxic garments for their children, accessible to mothers on a budget (and frankly during these times, who of us isn’t?)
Speaking of children, I convinced my oldest to help with the process.  THis is Tanner, prepping beets for steeping.

Here are the 4 phases of the dye process of the antique-looking peach color.  From L-R: Yarn Ramen (post-unraveling, pre-soak), Simmer Down Now! (making the dye bath), Beet-le Juice (dyeing in progress) and, Ol’ Softie (lovely, color has set in and it’s ready to dry!)

We’ll include at least one dye recipe in the book but in the meantime if you get the bug yourself, there are a ton of resources on the internet.  

Alright, I still have a little bit of the plain wool left and a container of blueberries in my fridge.   I’m off to perform my own version of the old Reese’s commercial.  It will go something like this: 
“Your blueberries got on my yarn!”
“Your yarn got in my blueberries!”
Nightie night!
xo, Vickie

17 Responses to “Beet-le Juice”

  1. Scoutj

    What fun!!! For the natural dyeing part of my book I am going on an adventure to the Navajo Reservation to interview and work with some Navajo dyers and weavers. I’m so excited to do this.

  2. Shelle Cain

    The top picture reminds me of a big ice cream cone. Yum! I love re-purposing yarn from thrift store sweaters. I recently made a bag from a recycled wool sweater, and when one of my students admired the design pattern in the yarn, she remarked “Ooh, that would make a beautiful sweater!” LOL
    Now you’ve inspired me to try dyeing. (that’s dyeing with an “e”!)

  3. cecily

    I used frozen blueberries with a an untreated wool i had felted and it turned the prettiest gray. I was excited to see that frozen (and thus cheaper) berries worked out so I can save the fresh ones for eating!

    Ooooh, you’ve got me all inspired now! That tumeric looks awesome!

  4. Shannon

    Looks beautiful! There’s natural dyeing info for alt fibers in my new book Alt Fiber, FYI… most of them take color just fine, but there are some tips and tricks to know. I adore that turmeric yellow! I’ve done turmeric, pomegranate and all kinds of other cool colors in the past year.

  5. zona

    They are all so lovely! I dye fiber all the time and have been wanting to try “natural” dyeing. You have insired me fo’ sho’!
    Did you use any kind of mordant?

  6. librarianism

    That yarn is SO pretty! I’m not at all surprised that looking at it makes you happy. How did you get it wound so nicely?

  7. Vickie Howell

    Thanks, everyone!

    Congrats Scout, I didn’t know! Best of luck with your book!

    Cecily: Maybe I’ll try frozen next time, because I’d prefer grey, I think. The fresh blueberries dyed lavender. 🙂

    Beth: It’s more panic-of-not-meeting-deadlines, than energetic. 😉 Thanks for the link to the great article!

    Zona: Yup. I used vinegar from some and allum for others.

    Librarianism: I have a handy-dandy ball winder & swift. 🙂

    xo, Vickie

  8. Eden

    I have a red rose out front that’s starting to wilt. Now I’m going to try & capture it forever. Thanks for the inspiration 🙂

  9. diva mcknitster

    your yarns are gorgeous! i love the rose yarn and your beet yarn is such a pretty apricot color. i’ve kool-aid dyed yarn but never used natural sources. thanks again for being an inspiration!

  10. Tina

    I really love the turmeric! Indians use this to dye their fabrics too. I must try that. We just practiced dyeing with Kool Aid this summer. It was fun for the kids to paint their own yarn and then learn to knit with it. Thanks for sharing*

  11. sylvchezplum

    I’m also having great fun trying all sorts of natural dyeing for wool, and without the scary mordanting process (= scary for my kitchen ware and kids running around). I loved curry spice, and beet root is on top of my list for next time ! 😛

  12. Hilary Johnson

    Sweet! I just learned how to spin my own yarn and know I’m going to have to take the plunge into the pot of dye but just haven’t gone there yet. You make it look so simple. The tumeric is stunning!!