Monday 11 May 2020

Dyeing with Dandelions

Dandelions au naturel

Having had some success with my rhubarb leaf dyeing, I decided to have a go with dandelions as there seemed to be acres of them about.  I set about picking all the dandelions in our allotment and some from the neighbouring allotment - with permission of course - thanks, Alison!

Collecting dandelions at the allotment

Here's what they looked like after picking...

Dandelions after picking

and the next day when I'd pulled just the heads off and put them in the dye pan...

Dandelions in the pan

I had a little more weight in dandelion heads than in fabric but not a lot and certainly not twice the weight of fabric in dandelion heads.

The fabrics I chose to dye were some wool yarn, wool blanket and cotton calico.  They were soaked overnight in soy milk which I had read acted as a mordant for cotton fibres.  A mordant is a dye fixative.  It helps bind the dye to a fabric to make it more colourfast and can affect the resulting colour.  For example, mordants may intensify the dye colour.  Alum was recommended as a mordant for wool but I didn't have any of that so I soaked them all in the soy milk (1 part soy milk to 4 parts water).  I could only get light soy milk.  I don't think this worked as well as ordinary soy milk would have.  Also, I didn't dry the fabric before putting it in the dye bath. I just wrung it out tightly.

Fabrics to dye

To make the dye bath, I covered the dandelions with water and simmered them for an hour and then removed the plant matter by straining.  The remaining liquid formed the dye bath to which I added the wrung out fabric.  My pan was aluminium as this was all I had. Ideally you would use a non reactive pan made out of stainless steel.   I simmered the dye bath for about an hour, during which I added a few rusty nails as nothing much seemed to be happening.  I thought this might help as you can use iron as a mordant too.  However, the recipe for an iron based mordant involves soaking some iron objects in 2 parts water to one part vinegar solution for a couple of weeks until it goes a rusty orange colour.  Dropping a few nails in the dye bath late on in the process was therefore unlikely to have a great effect.

Dyebath in action

I left the dye bath to cool overnight...

After cooling overnight

The following day I rinsed out the materials, washed them and hung them up to dry.  Here are the results together with a little sample of the original fabric to show the colour change...

Before and after

I was expecting a pale yellow colour but got a beige colour on the calico and a deeper more yellowy beige on the blanket and yarn.  There were some darker, discoloured patches where the materials had come into direct contact with the nails.

Results of dandelion dyeing

It was quite an interesting result and I don't know if I overheated the dyebath which resulted in a more neutral colour than expected. I would also probably have got a better result if I'd been more careful with the mordanting process and used more dandelion heads.
Some helpful websites for natural dyeing and mordants include House Sparrow Fine Nesting's blog on How to Dye with Dandelions, Natural Dyes from Your Flower Garden from and Fiber Artsy & Craftsy's Iron Mordant recipe.

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