Notes from my latest botanical dye workshop…

If you’re into dyeing with plants and parts of nature this will be a very informative post about how to get started on your journey.

These are the notes from a class that I recently taught in Powell River, BC at the Urban Homesteading School of Powell River.

I’m teaching three different techniques for dyeing wool yarn with botanical dyes.

The first step to all these techniques is to pre-mordant your fabric. pre-mordanting is when you mordant your cloth before it goes in the dye bath. You can mordant with your dye, all-in-one method, however most people and books will recommend for best depth of shade and wash + light-fastness that you pre-mordant.

What does this look like?

Take your yarn in the form of a skein, and soak it in water the same temperature as the skein of wool for at least 1 hour, overnight is best.

Take a pot large enough that your skein will have plenty of room in the water to move around. Weigh your yarn. I am teaching a pre-mordant with Alum at 15% WOF. do the math.

WOF ( Weight of Fibre) = 250g

Alum = 37.5g


Add the Alum to the water, stir well. Add your wet yarn. Turn the heat on to 4-6. You do not want your yarn to boil, just to get quite warm, then turn it down to a simmer and let it do this for 40 minutes.

At this stage, you are working with mordanted yarn. We did three different techniques to dye the yarn.

  1. Dye Bath   *    In order to do a dye bath you want to know the weight of fibre and then find out what percentage of WOF does the dye plant you are using work best in.  In class we used Lac Extract which was suggested to dye at 15% WOF.

WOF= 60g

Lac= @15% 9g

Add dye to a pot of water. Turn on to 4-6 on stove and once it gets hot, turn it down to a simmer.  Leave it to cook for 40 minutes. You could do it for 20 minutes if you’re in a rush, however you will have deeper depth of color if you leave it in for 40 minutes. Once you turn off the dye pot, let the fibres sit in the dye for the night, then rinse out the next day with a PH balanced soap and hang to dry.

2. Overdyeing

I pre-dyed 45g of wool yarn in myrobalan. We then made a formula of iron and water to ‘sadden’ the color.  It ended up turning the yarn a dark grey.  You can use iron afterbath to change yellows to greens, and purples to blacks.

WOF = 45g

Iron @ 2-4%  1/3 tsp Ferrous Sulfate

3. Variegated Yarn

This is my favorite way to dye yarn and wool. It is a method that I made up myself based off of other methods of direct application such as blockprinting and  silkscreening.

I make botanical dye extracts by adding Botanical Matter to a small amount of water and then bring the temperature up, then lower and simmer for 40 minutes I then strain off plant matter and store these extracts in the freezer if I can’t work with them right away.

Osage = 60g – 300ml water

Cutch = 30g – 200ml

Lac = 5g – 200ml

I used some old logwood chips in 200ml of water too, about 1/4 cup chips.


These make gorgeous strong extracts that I use for silk paintings. However if you put your pre soaked yarn in a pot with hardly any water, try 1/2-1 cup water to 100-200g Fibre.  Then pour over the top different extracts leaving a little bit of room between pours to blend with the colours next to where you pour.  Bring up to high heat, but not boiling, and then simmer for 40 minutes. Leave the items in the pot till the next day, rinse out with PH balanced soap, and enjoy!


Share your projects with me!

Photos soon to come! (hopefully)




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