09 July 2013

Weeds of Gold

Curly Dock (I think)

Some may think curly dock is a weed, and an unwelcome one at that. I happen to like mine so much, I go to a vacant lot to collect a pound of plant matter. My curly dock are still happy in the ground!

curly dock

The Lizard provides rusty screws for me to create my own iron mordant. Soak airtight for a day or two in vinegar water.

soon-to-be homemade iron mordant

I chop up the curly dock and bring it to simmer in the cheapest stock pot I could find... $6 at the department store. The pot is marked so we remember never to use it for food.

curly dock stewing

Then I hank both cotton and wool yarn.

wool to be hanked

cotton to be mordanted

By the time I finish putting the yarn into hanks and tying them securely, the dye bath is ready! I strain it with a regular strainer and a folded paper towel outside on the porch, so as not to accidentally spill any dye on the kitchen floor. The strainer is now marked so we remember never to use it for food.

Is this what color I'll get?!?

The plant matter starts out as green, and it smells somewhat like cooking spinach with a bit of vinegar during the hour or so it simmers. But the dye bath is bold gold!

Golden Glow

Just as I finish the dye bath, the sky smiles its approval in grand, colorful style!

I'm about to dye, and suddenly the sky glows with color!

I mordant the cotton and the wool in the cleaned dye pot, using alum and cream of tartar.

alum and cream of tartar mordanting wool

The wool goes in and promptly turns yellow, but I allow it to simmer for about an hour.


The cotton is much lighter than the wool.

The cotton is lighter than the wool.

I hadn't planned to mordant all the yarn in my rusty water, but I'm not much of a yellow person, even though the shades I got are attractive. I'd read the iron will make the colors "sad" by dulling and darkening them. I was hoping for a chartreuse, which I get on the initial cotton dunk, but the yarn gets darker while it waits for me to snap a photo. I don't make that mistake again.

Time for second mordant.

Instant Color Change!

I decide I'd like the wool a little less "cheery" too, so I briefly dunk it in the rusty water, hoping again for chartreuse. Not quite, but I like what I got. The process is indeed super fast, so I don't stop for photos this time.

The wool is buttery, while the cotton is sort of army-ish.

The second hank of cotton goes in the same dye bath after the first two hanks are done. The color comes out lighter, which I really like! Again, I do the iron mordant for only a few seconds. Not truly chartreuse, but I do like the shade, and it goes so well with the darker one!

second batch of cotton, only momentarily dipped in rusty mordant

All three colors, two cotton and one wool, hang to dry for about 24 hours.

pale olive green, gold and olive

After winding the hanks, I'm ready to knit! But what shall I make???

What a joy!

Ready to Knit!


  1. Nice with the wool and if people don't like the weeds, all the more for you.

    1. Absolutely, Pat! I hear other natural dyers saying their neighbors thank them for pulling their weeds!

  2. I really like the wool shade!

    Of course you WON'T be making yellow snowflakes.... ;)

    I think Colorado should be called the "Rainbow State". My goodness, you get a lot of them. (Not to mention the ones you cook up in your dye pot.)

    1. Nope, no yellow snowflakes, Sue. But I'm thinking this might make a nice shawl or vest, with stripes of other natural dyed yarn. My goal is five hanks of different hues.

  3. Got to say that is some fine muck you cooked up.

    1. It certainly was, Stratoz. Great for the garden, too!


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