Category Archives: Natural Dyes

About using organic and natural dyes, recipes.

Plant Dyes and Your Health

Did you know that textiles dyed with plant dyes can be good for you?
As a part of my personal search for a healthier lifestyle, I am on an ongoing quest to learn more about natural plant dyes, their uses and how to achieve the range of colours that plant dyes can produce. In this age of mass production, I fear that we are losing much of the knowledge that our ancestors had about how to make things using the raw materials that nature provides.

In my latest googling, I made a remarkable discovery (well, remarkable to me at least, as I had never heard of this before) Most natural plant dyes are anti-microbial. When yarns or fabrics are dyed using natural dyes and come into contact with bacteria, they prevent their spread.

Amazing, right? It is amazing to think that our ancestors who made and wore natural plant dyed fabrics, before the days of antibiotics or even much knowledge about germs, were also giving themselves protection against the spread of disease- Naturally.

Nature looks after us. The trees and plants clean our air. Roots of some plants clean up the soil, removing hazardous materials. Plants provide humans and other animals food to live on. Plants provide us with clothing (such as flax and cotton) Before the age of pharmaceuticals, plants were used as medicines. Plants also add colour to our clothing. And in addition to that, the natural dyes from the plants reduced the spread of harmful bacteria.

Yet here we are, purposefully destroying our whole eco-system that has sustained us for thousands of years.
We are becoming increasingly aware of the harmful effects of fossil fuels, of the use of plastics that pollute our rivers and streams, of the destruction of the rain forests. The problem seems insurmountable as our planet struggles with climate change.

I think to tackle part of this plastics problem, we have to start small, with the positive things that we can do within our own environment. Saying no to plastic bags, re-using and recycling whenever possible. Making changes to our buying habits. Shopping for locally produced foods and materials. Read labels – don’t buy products that contain plastics, acrylics, polyester.

As part of this, I think that textile crafters can play a huge part in this – choosing not to use yarns and fabrics that contain plastic content. Buy natural wools, cottons, linen, hemp, alpaca, mohair, silk and other natural fibres instead. Say no to superwash yarns. And in helping to revive the traditional crafts and skills of textiles, working with fibres, spinning, weaving, natural dyes. I know that it is currently quite difficult to source and find natural wools but a few are still available. Yes, clothes may need a bit of extra care when washing, but then you know that your washing machine is not flushing micro-plastics into our water systems.

Clothing is one of our major commodities and fabric and clothing manufacturing is a high polluter. If demand for plastics and synthetic fibres diminish, the industry will change. Knit, crochet, weave and wear yarns and clothing that have been dyed with natural plant materials rather than harmful synthetic dyes. Experiment with using and making natural dyes. Some of these dye plants can be found in your kitchen – such as promegranate peels, onion skins, turmeric and other spices. If you have space, plant some trees and a dye garden. The bonus of using natural materials rather than synthetics is, that your clothing will also provide you with some protection against diseases, reducing the need for antibiotic use.

Natural dyes are a good thing. In my research, I came across numerous research studies that have been done in the past several years about dye plants and their effectiveness against harmful microbes such as:
Escherichia coli
Sarcina lutea
Proteus vulgaris
Bacillus subtilis
Klebsiella pneumoniae
Staphylocccus aures
Enterococcus faecalis
Saccharomyces cerevisiae
Candida albicans

Researchers have been investigating the anti-microbial properties of plant dyes in order to develop commercial applications to produce textiles for use in hospital and clinical situations to help reduce the harmful spread of bacteria.
Some of the plants were more effective against different bacteria than others. Also stronger dye concentrations had higher microbial effects. I suppose that if you wore clothing of different colours and dyed with different dye plants, there might be a synergistic effect, giving you better microbe resistance. Also perhaps overdye techniques could be used with the dyes, producing different colours as well as added resistance.
In addition to confirming that many natural dye plants have bacteria killing properties, they also tested the washability of the plant dyes and found that the dyes were wash fast and the anti-microbial effects did not wash out of the textiles when they were properly mordanted.
Potassium aluminum sulphate (Alum) was used in most of the studies as a mordant.

Some of the natural plant dyes that have been tested with positive results for their antimicrobial resistance are:

LATIN NAME – PART OF PLANT/COLOUR – COMMON NAME (links to Dye Recipes)
Rhamnus petiolaris –  Fruit Yellow-orange – Persian berries, Buckthorn bark
Juglans regia –  Green fruit- peel Brown – Walnut
Laurus nobilis –  Leaf, Light yellow –  Bay tree
Erica manipuliflora –  Above ground – Brown, yellow, – Heather
Vitex   Leaf Light brown, greenish –  Chaste Tree
Juniperus foetidissima – Leaf, Light yellow, -Juniper
Juniperus excelsa – Leaf , Light yellow, – Greek Juniper
Berberis vulgaris – Fruit, Yellow-Orange –  Barberry
Lawsonia inermis  -Leaf Red, Brown -Henna
Agrimonia eupatoria – Leaf, Yellow  – Agrimony
Cistus creticus –  Leaf, Brown Yellow – Cretan rockrose
Reseda lutea-  Flower, Yellow –  Weld
Sambucus nigra – Leaf, Yellow – Elderberry
Punica granatum – Fruit peel, Yellow -Pomegranate
Eucalyptus globulus  – Leaf  – Eucalyptus
Matricaria chamomilla  – Flower  – camomile
Pinus brutia –  Bark , Brown – Pine tree
Platanus orientalis – Bark , Red, Sycamore –  Oriental Plane
Cartamus tinctorius -Flower, Yellow ,- Safflower
Salvia officinalis ,Leaf  – Yellow-orange, green –  Sage
Verbascum orientale – Leaf, yellow – Mullein
Allium cepa – Dry outer leaf, Yellow-orange – Onion
Rhus coriaria – Flower ,Yellow, brown  – Sumac
Curcuma longa – Flower, Yellow – Turmeric
Olea europaea – Leaf , Yellow-green –  Olive tree
Quercus infectoria – Oak galls
Acacia Catechu –  Cutch
Rheum Emodi – Himalayan rhubarb
Rubia cordifolia –  Indian madder
Rumex maritimus – Golden dock
Lithospermum purpureocaeruleum -Shikonin –  Purple Gromwell
Alkanna tinctoria – Alkanet
Haematoxylum campechianum – heartwood, blues, grey, brown, black – Logwood
Butea monosperma – Flowers, yellow – Bastard Teak Flame of the Forest
Rheum australe – Rhizomes, oranges, yellow – Himalayan Rhubarb

With winter and ‘flu season coming up, perhaps it is time to knit a scarf using naturally dyed yarns?

References
Antimicrobial Activities of Some Natural Dyes and Dyed Wool Yarn
In this study researchers tested 25 natural dye plants for their effectiveness against micro-organisms.
Punica granatum (Pomegranate peels) Berberis vulgaris (Barberry), Agrimonia eupatoria (Agrimony), Rhus coriaria (Sumac) were effective against all bacteria. Sarcina lutea, Bacillus subtilis, MRSA and Enterococcus faecalis were sensitive to almost all dye extracts even at low concentrations. The dyed wool material tested with microorganisms, and maximum inhibition rates were obtained against S. lutea and MRSA of wool samples dyed with P. granatum and R. coriaria, respectively, while there was a drastic decrease in E. faecalis growth with the A. cepa (Onion skins) and R. petiolaris (Buckthorn).

Antibacterial Activity of Cationised Cotton Dyed with Some Natural Dyes
Madder, Logwood, Cutch and Chelidonium majus (Greater Celindine) were tested against common pathogens Escherichia Coli, Staphylococcus aureus, Aspergillus favus and Candida albicans. Chelidonium majus dye was most effective and showed maximum zone of inhibition there by indicating best antimicrobial activity against all the microbes tested.

Antimicrobial activity of some natural dyes
Four natural dyes Acacia catechu (Cutch), Kerria lacca (Lac), Quercus infectoria (Oak Galls), Rubia cordifolia (Indian Madder) and Rumex maritimus (Golden Dock) were tested against common pathogens Escherichia coli, Bacillus subtilis, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Proteus vulgaris and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Quercus infectoria dye was most effective and showed maximum zone of inhibition thereby indicating best antimicrobial activity against all the microbes tested.

Antibacterial Efficacy of Natural Dye from Melia compositaLeaves and Its Application in Sanitized and Protective Textiles
“Almost all these synthetic colorants being synthesized
from petrochemical sources through hazardous chemical processes
pose threat towards the environment and human body health.”
.
“Worldwide environmental consciousness coupled with increased awareness of environmental hazards of synthetic dyes has led to the revival of interest in natural dyes due to their non-polluting and nontoxic nature. Consequently, numerous researches in recent years have focused on development of non toxic and eco-friendly natural dyes for textiles colouration6. Natural dyes are being preferred over synthetics owing to their eco-friendliness i.e. they do not create any
environmental problems at the stage of production or use
.  Furthermore, in addition to their dye-yielding characteristics, some of dyeyielding plants also possess medicinal value. Some natural dyes have
intrinsic additional properties such as antibacterial, antifungal, moth
proof, anti-allergy, anti-UV, etc”

Melia composita (China berry) leaves were extracted into boiling water for 70 minutes. The extract was used to dye silk, wool and cotton. The fabric dyed with the natural dye was tested against gram
positive bacteria, Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus epidermidis
and Bacillus cereus and gram negative bacteria, Escherichia coli,
Klebsiella pneumonia, Shigella flexneri and Proteus vulgaris. The dyed samples were evaluated against Ampicillin and Streptomycin. Ampicillin and Streptomycin. “The study led to the conclusion that leaves of Melia composita can be a potential source of ecofriendly natural dye with
remarkable antibacterial potency and the textile materials dyed with
this natural dye can be very useful in developing sanitized fabrics for
medical applications and protective clothing to protect users against common infections.

Natural dyes and its Antimicrobial Effect
Textile manufacturers are aware that there is a growing trend to natural and environmentally safe products.The International Journal of Engineering Trends and Technology (IJETT) –Volume-42 Number-3 -December 2016 states that:
“In the early 21st century, the market for natural dyes in the fashion industry is experiencing a resurge.Westernconsumers have become more concerned about the health and environmental impact of synthetic dyes in manufacturing and there is a growing demand for products that use natural dyes.Completely capturing the market with natural dyed fabric is an urgent need to maintain a safe environment. “

Colour, health and wellbeing: The hidden qualities and properties of natural dyes
In the journal of the International Colour Association (2013), Kate Wells discusses the possibilites of the uses of natural dyes to improve the health and well-being of mankind.

More
No-Nylon Sock Knitting

Natural Dye Books

The Wild Dyer: A Maker’s Guide to Natural Dyes with Projects to Create and Stitch (learn how to forage for plants, prepare textiles for dyeing, and … from coasters to a patchwork blanket)

The Modern Natural Dyer: A Comprehensive Guide to Dyeing Silk, Wool, Linen and Cotton at Home

The Art and Craft of Natural Dyeing: Traditional Recipes for Modern Use

A Weaver’s Garden: Growing Plants for Natural Dyes and Fibers

A Heritage of Colour: Natural Dyes Past and Present

Natural Dyes: Sources, Traditions, Technology & Science

Flame of the Forest Dye

Flame of the Forest Natural Plant Dye
Butea monosperma

for 100 grams of fibre
20 grams Flame of the Forest Dye Powder
Put Flame of the Forest into dye pot.
Let simmer in dyepot for +1 hour at 50 deg.
Add pre-mordanted wool yarn and sample fabrics.
Let simmer in dyepot for +1 hour.
Remove the wool yarn. Let this cool and rinse thoroughly to remove the excess dye powder.
Turn the heat off the dyepot and leave the linen and cotton samples to soak overnight. More colour will continue to develop as the dyebath cools.

All cellulose fibres, yarns and fabrics must be scoured prior to mordanting or dyeing. Please see my previous article on how to do this.
How to Scour Linen

Flame of the Forest Natural Dye - Butea monosperma
Flame of the Forest Natural Dye – Butea monosperma

For these samples, I used several different linen and cotton fabrics as well as wool yarn.

Linen and Cotton Fabric Samples
Linen and Cotton Fabric Samples

Bleached Cotton
Unbleached Cotton
Bleached Linen
Linen/Cotton Blend
Natural Linen (light weight)
Natural Linen (heavy weight)

Please look for my naturally dyed yarns in my Paivatar Yarn Shop on Etsy.

Natural Plant Dyed Sock Wool
Natural Plant Dyed Sock Wool

More about Naturally Dyed Yarns
Apple Leaf Dye
Madder Root Dye
Alkanet Root Dye
Brazilwood Dye
Himalayan Rhubarb Plant Dye

Natural Dye Books

Indigo from Seed to Dye

Indigo: Dye It, Make It: Techniques from plain and dip-dyeing to tie-dyeing and batik, in natural indigo blue

Wild Color, Revised and Updated Edition: The Complete Guide to Making and Using Natural Dyes

Natural Dyes

The Art and Craft of Natural Dyeing: Traditional Recipes for Modern Use

Dyes and Mordants on Ebay

Alum - Potassium Aluminum Sulfate - Mordant - Potash Alum - 4 oz

$5.25
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Alum - Potassium Aluminum Sulfate - Mordant - Potash Alum - 120g

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Alum Marbling Dyeing Mordant 450g 1lb Potash Marbled Paper Fabric Supplies

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Eucalyptus Leaf Dye

I gathered some Eucalyptus leaves during a recent visit to Corfu. Eucalyptus makes a wonderful dye, both from the leaves and the bark.
I dyed both wool and some cellulose fabrics (linen and cotton)

To make the dye, I used 50 grams of Eucalyptus leaves and put them into a dye pot filled with water.
I simmered the dyepot for +1 hour at 50 degrees Celsius.
I then added the mordanted wool and fabric samples to the dyepot.
I simmered the dyepot for +1 hour.
Then I turned off the heat and let the dyepot cool and left it overnight. I find that I get stronger colours when leaving the yarn to soak longer.

Eucalyptus Leaf Dye
Eucalyptus Leaf Dye

All cellulose fibres, yarns and fabrics must be scoured prior to mordanting or dyeing. Please see my previous article on how to do this.
How to Scour Linen

For these samples, I used several different linen and cotton fabrics as well as wool yarn.

Linen and Cotton Fabric Samples
Linen and Cotton Fabric Samples

Unbleached Cotton
Bleached Linen
Linen/Cotton Blend
Natural Linen (light weight)
Natural Linen (heavy weight)

Please look for my naturally dyed yarns in my Paivatar Yarn Shop on Etsy.

More about Naturally Dyed YarnsApple Leaf Dye
Madder Root Dye
Alkanet Root Dye
Brazilwood Dye
Himalayan Rhubarb Plant Dye

Indigo from Seed to Dye

Indigo: Dye It, Make It: Techniques from plain and dip-dyeing to tie-dyeing and batik, in natural indigo blue

Wild Color, Revised and Updated Edition: The Complete Guide to Making and Using Natural Dyes

Natural Dyes

The Art and Craft of Natural Dyeing: Traditional Recipes for Modern Use

Dyes and Mordants on Ebay

Alum - Potassium Aluminum Sulfate - Mordant - Potash Alum - 4 oz

$5.25
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Alum - Potassium Aluminum Sulfate - Mordant - Potash Alum - 120g

$6.49
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Alum Marbling Dyeing Mordant 450g 1lb Potash Marbled Paper Fabric Supplies

$9.90
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No-Nylon Sock Knitting

Since I had cancer last year, I have spent time examining how I live and what possible environmental effects could have had an influence on getting this disease. I have had to change many things in my life and to examine what foods I eat, the types of fabrics and clothes that I wear, the yarns, fibres and dyes that I use in my work. In addition to the air pollution around us from cars and factories, working as a weaver/spinner, we know that fibre creates dust and small airborne particles that we breathe. Those particles get into our lungs, our food, and everything we touch and can be absorbed by our skin.
As we know, in recent months there has been growing concern about the use of microplastics, that pollute our rivers, streams, oceans and invade the delicate balance of our world. The concern is not just plastic bags, plastic water bottles but also the bits of plastic particles that are in most of our clothing and fabrics.

So the gentle hobby of knitting that we enjoy also has an impact on our world. What yarns we choose to knit with and to wear can make a difference. Since it is November and the days are cold, I have been knitting some socks and mittens. There are many yarns and fibres to choose from – wools, mohair, silks, cottons,yak, alpaca, cashmere. A random Google search led me to a huge selection of sock yarns. When I looked at the fibre content of the yarn blends, most of them contain 10% to 25% nylon/polyamide. That might not seem like a lot, but it all adds up.
I begin to wonder, is nylon really necessary to add to the sock to give it strength? When you add up all the wools and other yarns that contain nylon, that adds up to a lot of microplastics.
When I knit socks that contain nylon, I find that they do wear out rather quickly at the heels and the bottom of the foot. I look at the yarn and how it has worn, and I see that the wool has broken and the nylon remains. I wonder if the nylon could be abrasive and causes the wool to wear?

I thought back to the days when my mother used to knit hats, mittens, socks, sweaters for our family. My Dad, my brothers, sister, nieces and nephews each got a sock, hat and mitten set every Christmas. She only used pure wool for her knitting. The socks were hard-wearing and almost never wore out. Our sock drawers were full of hand knit socks, made many years ago, though we did get a new pair to add to the collection every year. When the socks did get a bit worn, she would darn them with other bits of leftover wool. Make do and mend, and those socks would again be warm and durable.
I found some of my mother’s old double point sock knitting needles. I remember that she would use different sizes of needles for the socks – for the body of the sock she used a slightly thicker size of needle and a thinner one for the heel and foot of the socks. I measured her old knitting needles – and the fine ones were 2.0.

Sock Knitting Needles
Sock Knitting Needles

For socks that I knit, I have been using the recommended 2.5 mm to 3.0 mm for most of my knitting and the socks do wear out quickly. Perhaps the socks also need to be knit with a tighter tension to give the sock more strength. I will test this and knit with my mother’s fine needles on my next pair of socks.

As a hand spinner I am aware that the type of wool fibre that you use can make a difference to the durability and softness of the sock. And also how the yarn is spun – with a tight twist or a loosely spun one.
Wool spun for socks should be made from a sheep breed that has a long staple length and is worsted spun with a tight twist. Soft wools such as merino are not really suitable as the fibre is very fine, the staple length is short and I find that merino tends to break off and pill when it is worn. Merino is better suited for knitting lace shawls, hats or wool sweaters that don’t demand a lot of hard use.
I have some wool sensitivites and I find that many wools make me itch and can give me a rash. A sheep breed such as Blue Faced Leicester is my favourite yarn for knitting. Romney is also another favourite of mine, though it is difficult to find in the UK.
It is difficult to find a sock yarn that doesn’t contain some amount of nylon. Perhaps if we as consumers become more demanding and ask yarn companies to produce yarns that are nylon free, non-superwash, and use eco-friendly dyes and methods, this will change. For now, I dye my own yarns with natural plant dyes. Both for personal use and for sale. You can find some of my Indie dyed yarns in my Paivatar Yarn Etsy Shop. Please also support other Indie dyers and crafters who work with natural materials.

Naturally Plant Dyed Knitted Hanwarmers
Naturally Plant Dyed Knitted Hanwarmers

Comments from Readers
After publishing this post, I received this comment from a long time friend and All Fiber Arts community member.

I never did like the idea of nylon in our wool socks. I did not believe that it make the socks last longer; I just could never understand how it could. What I knew was that the wool would disappear and the nylon would remain behind — and we THOUGHT that made the socks stronger. It didn’t.

I remember many years ago, I had purchased a pair of socks, machine made, that looked sort of home-made. They were in a natural sort of uneven grey colour, and appeared to be warm. They weren’t. They were not even wool, but mostly a loosely spun acrylic! [I didn’t read labels very carefully back then!] They wore out very fast…. I perhaps only wore them twice, and they seemed to wash away! I had holes in the bottom of the heel and ball of foot.

So I darned them. I decided to do duplicate stitch. After all, I could see the stitches (in nylon) and the rest of the sock had vanished. So it seemed so easy to just stitch over the stitches as they were already there, and it would all be good! Famous last words.

It seemed to take so long to do! I used my own hand-spun yarn, and covered the hole with neatly made stitches just as they were. For a darning mushroom, I used a light bulb (remember those?). I stitched a little beyond the hole so it would blend in. The heel was done with short rows, and I followed the pattern, and discovered how they were made. I stitched under the ball of the foot, and then the toe, and any thin area. I never knew where to stop! I mean, should I go only up to this stitch, or should I include the one next to it as well? I really felt that I could have knit the socks from scratch with my own yarn faster than it took to darn them! But it was a very good learning experience.

[I do remember where I was living at the time. I was sitting in my kitchen, with the oven door open — it was very cold then in winter, and I had little heat. I was listening to the federal finance minister presenting his budget at that time as well. I remember very well thinking whether he ever has sat and darned his own socks! If he did, THEN he could talk to me about restraint and higher taxes!]

When I did a lot of weaving, I do remember reading somewhere that you should NOT use nylon as a warp when weaving rugs because it would cut through your wool weft. That was a revelation to me…. and I always remembered that. So putting nylon in socks seems to be counter-intuitive. Wouldn’t the nylon cut through the wool? Of course it did! But that only meant you would have to buy more socks sooner! [there is some sense behind their madness!]

I could never understand how the addition of the nylon, whether blended with the wool, or added while knitting, could make the wool last longer. All I could see is that the wool could disappear, but the stitch would still hold together… there could still be some fabric there…. and it would “last longer”.

I thank you for bringing this to our attention. I don’t like the prevalence of all these synthetics in our lives. I can’t believe they are doing us any good. I am so distressed when those ignorant knitters on the forum write that they HAVE to use acrylics for their grandkids because their children are too busy to be able to hand-wash any baby clothes. But they prefer to give them toxic clothes instead? Have any of you ever seen a baby burned by melting acrylics?? As you know, wool does not burn without a flame on it. Only one conclusion in my mind.

We need to be reminded of these things from time to time. We soon get caught in the ways of the world, and we forget. Until it is too late.

TG

Plastics and Pollution
I was very happy to see in The Guardian newspaper today a beginning of awareness that the clothing we wear has an impact on the world around us.
The Christmas Jumper, so loved by everyone in the holiday season, is causing harm to our planet.
Christmas Jumpers Add to Plastic Pollution
“95% of the jumpers were made wholly or partly of plastic materials. The charity said the garment had become one of the worst examples of fast fashion, now recognised as hugely damaging to the environment.”

The contribution of washing processes of synthetic clothes to microplastic pollution
Recent estimations have assessed that synthetic clothes contributes by about 35% to the global release of primary microplastics to the world oceans, thus becoming the main source of microplastics.

More
Plant Dyes and Your Health

Sock Knitting Books
Jorid Linvik’s Big Book of Knitted Socks: 45 Distinctive Scandinavian Patterns

The Sock Knitter’s Handbook: Expert Advice, Tips, and Tricks

The Knitter’s Book of Socks: The Yarn Lover’s Ultimate Guide to Creating Socks That Fit Well, Feel Great, and Last a Lifetime

Knitting Vintage Socks

Knit Like a Latvian – Socks: 50 Knitting Patterns for Knee Length, Ankle and Footless Socks

150 Scandinavian Motifs: The Knitter’s Directory

Apple Leaf Dye

We planted an espalier apple tree 2 years ago when we moved to our new property. This year we had our first successful apple crop.

Espalier Apple Tree
Espalier Apple Tree

Apples
Apples

Every fruit tree needs occasional pruning. When you prune the small branches – do not throw them away. Both the leaves and the twigs and branches can be used for natural dyeing.
I separated the leaves from the branches and put them into buckets to store them for later use.

Apple Tree Leaves
Apple Tree Leaves

I filled a dyepot with some of the apple leaves (the rest of the leaves will be used later for another dye session.)
I added water and put the dyepot onto boil. I let it simmer for a few hours and then turned off the heat and let the dye solution sit overnight. I find that when working with plant dyes, it is better to leave them for several hours/overnight to allow more of the dye to soak out of the plant and into the water.

Apple leaves can be dyed without mordant as there are some natural tannins in the leaves.
I tested this by mordanting one skein in an alum mordant and leaving one wool skein unmordanted.

The following day, I reheated the apple leaf dye, leaving the leaves in the dyepot. I added the 2 skeins of wool into the dyepot and let them simmer for a few hours, stirring the pot from time to time.
I then turned off the heat and left the wool yarn to soak in the dye stock overnight. Again, I find that I get much stronger colours with natural dyes if I leave them in the dye solution overnight. Natural dyeing is a slow process, not to be rushed.

Apple Leaf Yarn
Apple Leaf Yarn
Apple Leaf Dyed Yarn
Apple Leaf Dyed Yarn
Apple Leaf Dyed Handspun
Apple Leaf Dyed Handspun

Both the mordanted and unmordanted yarns gave a lovely golden shade of yellow. I found that the alum mordanted yarn was slightly brighter in shade.

I am pleased that I still have lots of apple leaves for another dye project and that the apple tree bark awaits for another dye day.

More About Natural Dyes
How to Scour and Mordant Cotton and Linen
How to Make an Alum Mordant: how_alum_mordant
Brazilwood Dye

Natural Plant Dye Books

The Art and Science of Natural Dyes: Principles, Experiments, and Results

Wild Color, Revised and Updated Edition: The Complete Guide to Making and Using Natural Dyes

True Colors: World Masters of Natural Dyes and Pigments

Eco Colour: Botanical Dyes for Beautiful Textiles

A Weaver’s Garden: Growing Plants for Natural Dyes and Fibers

Natural Dyes

Handspun Yarn on EBay

Hand spun Art Yarn Merino Wool Knitting Crochet Nalbinding Weaving 2 ply 115gr

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Hand spun Art Yarn BFL Wool Knit Crochet Nalbinding Weaving Indigo Dye 30gr

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Hand spun Art Yarn Romney Wool Knit Crochet Nalbinding Weaving Madder 35gr

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Hand spun Art Yarn BFL Wool Knit Crochet Nalbinding Weaving Natural Dyes 100gr

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Raanu

A Raanu rug was traditionally a flat weave weft faced handwoven wall hanging that was sometimes also used as a bed covering. The warp is made of cotton rug yarn or sometimes linen yarn, and the weft is woven of multicoloured fine wool yarns, often a single ply. The weave structure is a repp weave and the weft is beaten down firmly so that the warp yarns are fully covered.

The earliest Raanu date back to the 1600’s. The Saami wove Raanu (Rátnu, Rádno, Grene) and used them as wall coverings in their tents and sod huts. The designs of the Raanu depicted the colours of the landscape scenes around them and brought some colour into their homes during the dark and long winter nights. Raanu were also woven in many parts of Finland. In the 1960-70’s Raanu again became popular and were displayed on the walls of many Finnish and Scandinavian homes.

I thought that I would weave a Raanu based on one of my favourite places in the UK, West Wittering Beach. The photo is by Robert Lane.

West Wittering Beach
West Wittering Beach

I am weaving this Raanu with yarns that I have dyed with natural dyes. The dyes I have used are:
Indigo, Logwood, Madder Root, Brazilwood, Alkanet Root, Indian Barberry, Flame of the Forest

Raanu Rug Weaving
Raanu Rug Weaving

Warp Yarn: Cotton Rug Warp 12/9 1900 m/kg
Weft Yarn: Sport Weight Wool 2600 m/kg
Sett: No. 30 Reed (approx 6 epi)
Width in Reed: 60 cm
PPI: 30 ppi
Weave Structure: Repp Weave

The weft yarns must be beaten firmly. Throw the shuttle. Beat. Change shed. Beat again before throwing the next weft.

West Wittering Beach Raanu
West Wittering Beach Raanu

Raanu Mallit
Raanu – Historical Weave Structures
Raanu or Ryijy
Raanu Minimalist Design
Peilikäs raanu as a mirror

Finnish Heritage Museum
Raanu Weaving

Weaving Books
The Weaver’s Companion (The Companion Series)
The Weaver’s Companion (The Companion Series)
Learning to Weave
The Big Book of Weaving: Handweaving in the Swedish Tradition: Techniques, Patterns, Designs and Materials

Weaving on Ebay

BEKA Beginner Weaving Loom Wood Handmade in USA RH4-RH10.

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5 oz Cotton Jersey Hand Weaving Loops & Metal Loom To Make Potholders Craft Gift

$18.95
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LOT OF 5 VINTAGE ANTIQUE WOOD Loom Weaving Shuttles Bobbins Boats

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Hazards of Loom Dust

My studio is filled with weaving looms of many sizes ranging from large floor looms, to 4 shaft table looms, band looms and inkle looms. If you are a weaver, you will have noticed that during weaving, dust bunnies collect under the loom. In the past, I haven’t been too concerned about this except to pull out my vacuum cleaner and clean it up.

However, a few months ago I caught that flu bug that has been making its rounds, with one of the symptoms being an annoying cough that doesn’t seem to go away. After about a week, the cough seemed to clear up, but another week later, it came back. Many of my neighbours had it, and also friends in Canada said it was making the rounds there as well. So I wasn’t too concerned about the cough, and thought it was just more of the same thing. I did notice that my cough seemed to be worse about a month ago when I wove a lengthy linen warp. The loom dust under my loom was very fine, much more so than when weaving with wool yarns.

Over the recent months, I have also made a transition to dyeing wool and cotton yarns using natural dyes, rather than the vinegar/acid based dyes that I have used previously. Many of the natural dyes come in fine ground powder form, often using wood chips such as birch bark, logwood, brazilwood, madder root. The fine powder is placed into the dyepot, the pre-mordanted yarn is steeped in the dyebath for a few hours and then removed. The yarn is rinsed out in the sink and hung up to dry. After drying, there is still a lot of fine wood chip dye residue left on the yarn. I rewind the skeins into yarn balls or reskein. During this process, much of the natural dye residue falls off. I vacuum the fine dust from the floor.

A few days ago, I started to weave a Sami style band on my table loom. I was using a combination of wool and natural unbleached cotton yarns. I dyed the yarns using natural dyes.

Woven Sami Band
Woven Sami Band

After I wove for a bit, I noticed that some loom dust was collecting on the table, under the loom. I vacuumed this up in the evening before I left the studio. The next morning I returned to weaving this band. After about 2 hours, I had another terrible coughing fit. And again, I noticed an accumulation of loom dust under the table loom.

And I start to wonder, how much of this fine dye dust or loom dust am I breathing in? Can this be a cause of my almost chronic cough?
At that point I took some allergy medication and went out for a walk in the fresh air. My breathing seemed to clear up and I had a full nights restful sleep. The following day, I was away and didn’t go into the studio. I have felt much better the past few days with very little coughing.
I spend a few hours on trusty Google to research about the environmental hazards of the craft and textile work that I do.
I have since ordered an air purifier (Vax ACAMV101 Pure Air 300 Air Purifier) and dust ventilation masks.
I looked for an air purifier that has high CADR ratings hoping that it will be effective in clearing much of the harmful dust from the air.
I am now waiting for the air purifier and dust masks to be delivered before I continue working in the studio.

Air Purifier
Air Purifier

This air purifier really does work. I leave it running on the Auto setting during the day. When I wind a skein of yarn from the swift into a ball, the green light changes to Red and the fan comes on at full speed. And when I am at my loom weaving a rug, the air purifier also goes into action with lights glowing red, and fan speeding up. After a weaving session, I now set the fan speed to high for about an hour, so it can continue to clear the air for my next return to the studio.

Best Air Purifiers – Trusted Reviews
Blueair Classic 203 Slim HepaSilent Air-Purification System, Allergy and Dust Reducer, Small Rooms 237 sq. ft., White
3M 8511PB1-A-PS Particulate N95 Respirator with Valve, 10-Pack

As natural dyers we are aware that many mordants used in natural dyes can be dangerous to your health. For example, Rhubarb leaves are used as a mordant but are high in oxalic acid that is corrosive, and can cause acid burns, ulcers, and is hazardous by skin contact, inhalation, and ingestion. Sodium hydrosulphite or sodium diothinate which is often used when creating an indigo vat, can be explosive when added too quickly to the vat. When heated or allowed to stand in basic solution, sodium hydrosulfite decomposes to form highly toxic sulfur dioxide gas. For those who use acid dyes, vinegar or acetic acid fumes can cause damage to the lining of the nose, throat and lungs.
Some natural dyes themselves also contain toxic chemicals. For example, Logwood contains hematein or hematoxlyn can be poisonous if inhaled, absorbed through the skin or ingested. Madder root contains alizarin and purpurin that have been associated with kidney damage in animal experiments.
Wood chips and wood dust such as birch bark, logwood and other tree barks are also used as natural dyes but can also pose dangers to your health. Breathing in wood dust can cause allergic reactions, asthma as well as nose and lung cancer.

I also tend to have a high sensitivity to moulds, so I try to avoid working with natural dye fermentation types of dyes. The indigo vats that I have seem to be ok, but I notice that as soon as the natural dye pots start to ferment (usually after a few days) they make me ill. So I dispose of them immediately. As lovely as some of the natural fermented colours can be, in my opinion, it’s not worth the health risk to myself.

Although I work on a small scale and not in a large industrial setting, textile hazards are still something to think about. Be careful when handling any type of dyestuff or mordant, even if it is ‘natural’. Wear appropriate protective gear, gloves, facemasks, clothing and ensure that your studio has good ventilation.

References:
Textile Dust and Endotoxins
Exposure to Dust and Endotoxin in Textile Processing Workers
Cotton Dust – Impact On Human Health And Environment In The Textile Industry
A Study on Health Issues of Weavers (Handloom Weaving)

Natural Dyes and Dye Safety

Dyes and dyeing – Safety
Dyes Synthetic and Natural
10 Toxic Chemicals To Avoid In Your Products
Toxicity and Environmental Damage Associated with Logwood and Other Natural Dyes
Health Hazards – Wood Dust
Dyeing Safely Overview
Natural Dyes International

Weaving Books

The Weaver’s Companion (The Companion Series)
Learning to Weave

The Big Book of Weaving: Handweaving in the Swedish Tradition: Techniques, Patterns, Designs and Materials

Weaving on Ebay

Harrisville Designs Easy Weaver Hardwood Weaving Loom Ages 7+ In Original Box

$69.30
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Handmade Adjustable Floor Rag Rug Twining Loom

$54.00 (9 Bids)
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Vintage Floor Loom Weaving 4 Harness, 6 Treadle with Warp

$650.00
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Woad Vat

The frosts are coming so it was time to cut back all of my Woad and Japanese Indigo plants. I harvested about 800 grams of fresh leaves from about 10 woad plants and about 250 grams of fresh leaves from the Japanese Indigo plants.

There are many different instructions on how to make a Woad or Japanese Indigo vat using fresh leaves. I read through several and thought I would try my own approach. I followed a similar procedure for both the Woad and Japanese Indigo vats.

The directions I’ve read warn that Woad (or Japanese Indigo) is sensitive to hot water >90 Deg C yet the woad needs to be heated up to help release the indigo pigment.

I used hot tap water rather than heating this on the stove, so I could control the amount of heat. Since my tap water wasn’t quite hot enough, I added a kettle full of heated water to the water to raise the temp to about 80 deg. C. I cut the woad leaves into small pieces and let them soak in the hot water for about an hour.


Apparently 115 deg F (or 46 deg C) supposed to be the optimum temperature for the release of Indigo pigment from the plants.
When the temperature decreased to <50 deg C I scooped the cut leaves into an organza mesh bag. I thought that this would help prevent the messy leaf sediment in the bottom of the indigo vat. Then I transferred the Woad dye water into a large plastic bucket. I thought I would try to use a fructose fermentation method, following Michael Garcia's 1,2,3 guidelines, as I've had good success with my previous Fructose Indigo vat.
I have no idea how much indigo pigment is really in the leaves, so I added 20 grams of Calcium Hydroxide to the indigo vat and 40 grams of Fructose. The pH rose to 10.4.
I put the organza mesh bag filled with the Woad leaves back into the bucket and put the lid onto the vat. I did the same with the Japanese Indigo vat.
I checked both of the vats about an hour later and was pleased to see some blue bubbles and the organza bags turning blue.

Japanese Indigo Vat
Japanese Indigo Vat

Woad Vat
Woad Vat

Now I wait patiently.. perhaps tomorrow I can dye some beautiful indigo grown in my own garden.

Books
Indigo from Seed to Dye

Indigo: Dye It, Make It: Techniques from plain and dip-dyeing to tie-dyeing and batik, in natural indigo blue

Wild Color, Revised and Updated Edition: The Complete Guide to Making and Using Natural Dyes

Natural Dyes

The Art and Craft of Natural Dyeing: Traditional Recipes for Modern Use

References
An Easy Organic Indigo Vat
Preparing to Dye with Natural Indigo
Creating a Natural Indigo Dye Reduction Vat
Cold Water Fresh Leaf Indigo Vat Dyeing
Indigo Vat Basics
Japanese Indigo

Dyes and Mordants on Ebay

Alum - Potassium Aluminum Sulfate - Mordant - Potash Alum - 4 oz

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Alum - Potassium Aluminum Sulfate - Mordant - Potash Alum - 120g

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Alum Marbling Dyeing Mordant 450g 1lb Potash Marbled Paper Fabric Supplies

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