7th April 2020

Craft / Helen Hickman

How To: Two Tone Naturally Dyed Yarn

8 5 mins 1

Helen Hickman, owner and founder of Nellie and Eve, teaches spinning, dyeing, weaving and knitting with the sustainable fibre plentiful in her area in rural Wales, wool.


Here is her recipe, an introduction to natural dyeing, to encourage and inspire. By working with natural dyes we support a positive, environmentally friendly process, lowering the dependence on harmful products. Plant dyeing produces no toxic waste, unlike its synthetic counterpart. Plus, it looks beautiful! Follow Helen’s lead and give it a go.

My journey into the versatility of wool started some seventeen years ago when I moved to Wales. Wool is often an overlooked natural resource. I learnt to spin fibre into yarn at a local group and that’s where my passion for grass roots making was really fuelled. Creating a material that can be used in many other ways astonished me and I was hooked.

I am very mindful of our environment, so when it comes to adding colour to my yarns and fibres, the obvious choice for me is to use plants and to create natural tones. Collected from the garden, hedgerows or from the pantry cupboard I have spent many happy hours experimenting and perfecting recipes in the kitchen. My collection of plant dyed British wool yarns has been the result.

Wool is a great material to use when taking your first steps into the world of natural dyeing. It’s widely available in the UK, it’s natural, it’s breathable, and takes to dye like a dream.

This simple method gives excellent, impressive results without needing specialist ingredients. I hope it will inspire you to learn more about this wonderful subject.

Note: It’s worth noting that although turmeric is not a native plant it is widely available. I have chosen it because it does give really good results without the use of a mordant (fixative).

Ingredients

  • 100g of pure wool yarn – Nellie and Eve has a range of undyed yarns (synthetic/acrylic yarn does not dye)
  • 2 tsp of Turmeric
  • Bicarbonate of soda
  • Water

Equipment

  • Small metal pot (use only for dyeing)
  • Protective Gloves
  • Apron
  • Metal spoon (use only for dyeing)
  • Note: Use protective gloves and apron throughout.

Method

Step 1.
Soak your yarn in a bowl of warm water for 1 hour with a little gentle soap. Rinse and gentle squeeze out excess moisture. This helps the wool to take up as much dye as possible.

Step 2.
In a small metal pot of cool water add 2 tsp of turmeric powder and mix gently. Add the yarn. Water should just cover yarn. Heat gently for 20 mins, stir occasionally, do not boil.

Step 3.
Turn off heat, leave to cool until you can safely handle yarn. Squeeze out excess moisture, put yarn aside. Your yarn will be bright yellow and look like egg noodles, this is your first colour.

Step 4.
Now this is the magic bit, the crowd pleaser, the wow moment of the recipe and how you can easily achieve two colours from one dye pot with the help of a bit of simple chemistry. Do not worry, this is very safe and I won’t bombard you with a chemistry lesson!
Gently heat the pan of turmeric water again and add 2 tsp of bicarbonate of soda, stand back a little as the liquid will instantly fizz up… and turn bright orange!
Now dip just half of the length of dyed yarn into the pot, hang it over the side of pot and gently heat for about 10 mins. Take care that the yarn does not catch any naked flame under pot whilst hung on the side of pot, wipe up any
water reside as you go.
Leave to cool.

Step 5.

Rinse, rinse, rinse the yarn in cool water until water runs clear. Hang yarn to dry.
Congratulations, you have just completed your first yarn dyeing project using natural plant extracts.

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Helen Hickman
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Helen is an expert with all things wool. And with her material source visible from her kitchen window in the Carmarthenshire Hills she is a true example of the homegrown and homemade craft movement.

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