In late September, Bracken and I harvested marigolds in the garden, along with some seeds for planting more next year. Jeff planted so many marigolds this year, spreading them all throughout the garden, and Bracken had been begging me to do a natural dyeing project for quite some time, so I thought it would be great to harvest a bunch of those marigolds. I bought yarn that my friend dyed with marigolds years ago, I absolutely loved the bright yellow color that came from those flowers, and thought it would be fun to try it out myself. Another friend, who is also a natural dyer, suggested that we put the marigolds in the freezer until we were ready to use them. That’s just what we did.
In early October, we took our marigolds out of the freezer, covered them in water and heated them up on the stove. We let the flowers sit overnight and the next day we strained out the marigolds. We brought the marigold water with us to our homeschool handworks class to do a natural dyeing project with the children. I also brought a little basket of marigolds so the children could see where the color was coming from, and touch the flowers and smell them. (I never realized how strongly marigolds smelled until I harvested so many and my hands were scented for so long afterwards.)
The kids wet felted wool around bells, forming a ball of wool, and then sewed on a silk streamer (that had been soaked in a mordant beforehand.) Then we went outdoors and the children dipped their projects in the marigold water that had been heated up. And suddenly their projects were yellow! It was so fun to watch them change color before our eyes! They all looked proud of the shooting stars they had made themselves. (And the shooting stars were quite fun to throw with the silk streaming behind.)
I took the marigold water home, so I could dye some yarn with it, and my friend let me borrow her dye pot. (She also gave me some mordant to use, alum and cream of tartar.) I decided I wanted to add more marigolds because I wanted the yellow color to be as deep as possible. (Ideally, the marigolds would all be strained out before adding the yarn, but I ended up adding more marigolds to the marigold water we had already made and putting my yarn straight in there. I had to pick some petals out of the yarn later, but it wasn’t a big deal.) I warmed up the pot, and kept checking the color of the yarn (so exciting!), and later let it sit overnight. (I was trying to keep all my skeins of yarn marked, so I could tell what was what, so had the tags hanging out of the water, in case you were wondering what those were.)
The next morning (the day before we left for our Washington trip) I brought the dye pot outside, pulled the skeins out of the dye bath, and marveled at the beautiful, deep yellow color. I washed each skein and hung it to dry on my favorite drying rack. The yellow yarn looked so beautiful hanging there in the sunshine! I wish I would have taken a picture of the yarn before I had dyed it, to show the contrast. I got the yarn from Wolf Ridge Icelandics at the Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival. All the yarn I dyed was white to begin with, except for one skein that was grey (which you can see in the last picture, the color was really unique.) Another skein turned out really neat (also shown in the last picture.) I dyed some yarn for a friend and her yarn was wound into a ball , so when I pulled it out of the dye bath, some of the yarn was deeper in color than other parts. I unwound the ball after pulling it out of the dye bath, so it could dry fully.
Years ago I sewed a shirt for Jeff and dyed it with henna, not adding any mordant, but simply putting it in a warm pot of henna water. That was the extent of my experience with natural dyeing. We grew a dye garden for years, but decided to use the space for growing food instead. We were so busy, I just didn’t think I’d get around to doing any dyeing, but always dreamed that someday I might. I’m so grateful to my friend for getting me going on this project and I must say, it was so exciting to dye yarn for the first time! One skein went to that friend who helped make it happen, and I’ve saved two skeins for Jeff and Bracken. They were the ones who put so much time and energy into the garden this year and I’ve been wondering what special something I’d like to knit for them, dyed with the marigolds they grew.