Skip to main content

.Yellow, Brown and Beige - Natural Dyeing of Yarn.

From left to right: onion+turmeric, rooibos, coffee, onion+turmeric+coffee

Yarns dyed with onion and turmeric

Yarns dyed with rooibos tea

I've been wanting to try dyeing yarns for a long time, but since we live in an apartment I've thought it would be too messy and smelly. Last weekend I was dog-sitting for my parents and decided to give the dyeing a go. Coincidentally there was a yarn sale just a few days before I started to dye, so I bought 18 skeins of off-white 100 % woolen yarn. The yarn was so cheap that I thought it wouldn't matter if I ruined the whole batch, or I could dye them black if the color wouldn't look good.

Yarns dyed with coffee

Yarns dyed first with onion and turmeric, then with coffee

I did a lot of research on the internet going through various options and techniques as well as trying to figure out the best mordant and plants to use. I found out that alum would be the best way to go, but I didn't really want to use any chemicals so I went with vinegar instead. As this was my first time dyeing I wanted to use plants that would certainly work and give darker shades, so I skipped all the leaves, flowers and berries, even though that was what I had initially planned. I would have wanted to try dyeing with blueberries, but after going through other people's results I noticed the yarn would not turn the color of blueberry juice but light blueish grey instead, so I gave up on that plan as well. I rather eat my blueberries instead. 

I soaked my skeins in lukewarm water for about two hour. Then I put them into a saucepan with 3 parts of water and one part of vinegar and started boiling them. Or not boiling, I let the water simmer slowly. I kept the skeins in the vinegar water simmering for about an hour, meanwhile preparing my dyes.

The first dye I made was from onions and turmeric. I had the peels of about 7 onions boiling in 5 liters of water and added 2 tablespoons of turmeric to that. Before dyeing I drained the water through a sieve to get rid off the peels. The second dye was Rooibos tea. I used about 60 grams for 3 liters of water. And the last one I made was with coffee: I brewed two pans of the strongest, darkest coffee I could make with our coffee cooker. That means I filled the filter so full of coffee grounds I possibly could fit. 

I poured the boiling liquids into buckets and after the yarns had simmered for about an hour, I put them in the buckets as well and let them soak there overnight. Next morning I took the yarns out, washed them under running water and put them to dry flat.

Some notions I have about this whole process:

1. First of all, this was really fun and lot easier than I had thought. I will definitely try this again.

2. As I only used natural ingredients there is absolutely no reason why I couldn't dye yarns in my apartment as well.Vinegar boiling is not the most pleasant smell there is but at least it's not dangerous to breath in.

3. I should buy bigger saucepans if I want to dye more than a few skeins per time. Even though I thought I measured everything equally, yarns from different saucepans reacted differently to the dye. My saucepans were quite small (only 5 liters) and could only fit 5 skeins per time (I had two saucepans with vinegar and yarns cooking at a time). Part of the skeins from the second saucepan didn't turn as dark a color as the first ones I set in the onion dye, even though they only had a couple of minutes in between when going into the dye. Since the yellow color didn't want to stick to the three last skeins, (they were something like pale banana shade of yellow) I took them out and put them into the coffee dye. 

Yarns dyed first with onion and turmeric, the coffee.

Can you see the slight variation in colour with these yellow skeins?

4. The Rooibos tea worked the best in my opinion and gave the most beautiful shade. It's a pity I only dyed 2 skeins with it. The research I had made pre-dyeing suggested that tea is not the best dye, and gives pastel brown or beige colours, but in my experience the Rooibos tea worked superb! Something to try again! 

I liked the rooibos tea the most, this colour is beautiful!

5. I should have tied my skeins more loosely but I was too lazy. So the outside of the skeins are now of a darker color than the insides, but I don't think that matters, I kind of like the ombre effect.

6. Next time I should remember to drain the dyeing liquids through a mesh sieve or a coffee filter, because there were a lot of really small bits of tea and turmeric left in the skeins even though I thought I had washed them well after dyeing. 


  1. Love, love, love the colors!! :) (and your blog that I just found)

    1. Kiva kuulla että tykkäät! Olen itsekin tosi tyytyväinen näihin. Toivottavasti tämä ei nyt ollut vaan tällaista aloittelija tuuria, vaan löysin uuden harrastus!

    2. Haha :) uutta kokeilua vaan perään. Olen suunitellut ensi keväälle värjäystä kans. Kasveja ja varmasti täytyy kokeilla näitä sinunkin kokeilemia.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Salut Chéri! Beret Pattern.

Here is the pattern for the berets I've knitted. The name for the beret is from the t-shirt I was wearing when I took the project photos of the first beret for Ravelry. I thought the name suited the beret, since it's quite classical take on the hat that has become the icon of everything French. Happy knitting! Salut Chéri! You need:  yarn: 105-125 m (114 - 137 yards) worsted weight yarn. The sample was knitted with Novita Joki ( 104 m or 114 yard per 50g) needles : 3.5 mm and 4.0 mm (US size 4 and 6) circular needles (40 cm or 16 inches) size 4.0 mm (US size 6) DPNs 6 stitch markers , one of a different color to indicate the beginning of the round Gauge : 10 sts and 16 rounds = 5 cm (2 inches) in straight Stockinette stitch with 4.0 mm needles Cast on 88 sts on 3.5mm circular needle. Join in round, careful not to twist the stitches. Place a marker to indicate the beginning of the round. Knit in straight Stockinette stitch (knit all

Saving A Curling Scarf.

Don't you just hate it when a piece you've spent hours working on doesn't turn out the way you imagined it? It looks like this... ...when it should be more like this. After just a couple of rows into the Trellis scarf I noticed the cast on edge started to roll upwards ever so slightly. As I continued to knit the curling got worse and worse until it seemed to calm down when the scarf measured 10 cm or so from the CO edge. I didn't really stress much about it thinking it would be easily fixed later on and continued to knit further. Halfway through knitting the scarf I faced another problem with the scarf. The CO edge still rolled up and now the sides started to curl inwards. So badly that the scarf lost more than half of it's width. I hate it when it happens. If this was something I designed myself I could maybe live with the mistake, but when it's a pattern that is published I would assume such things would have been fixed. Or at least

Cloud Mittens - the Pattern part 1.

This is so long overdue, but I have now finally managed to write down the pattern for the Cloud mittens. Here it is, my Christmas present to all you guys! Enjoy! CLOUD MITTENS ( Here is the link to the pattern on Ravelry ) You need: 125 m or 135 yards of DK weight yarn (blue sample knit with Novita Wool, 100% wool, 135 m/ 50g) 125 m or 135 yards of sport weight yarn for the lining (blue sample: Garnstudio Drops Baby Alpaca Silk, 70% alpaca, 30% silk, 167 m/ 50 g)  Needles : a set of 2.5 mm (US 1 1/2) DPNs or circular needles if you prefer Magic Loop method like me Gauge: 16 stitches and 22 rows = 5 cm (2 inches) To fit an average woman hand Intermediate knitting skills required LEFT MITTEN Cast on 54 stitches loosely on size 2.5 mm double pointed needles or a circular needle if you like knitting with magic loop method like me. I used the long-tail method to cast on. You can place a marker (beginning of the round) if you want, the