Knitting and Dying and Knitting some more.

I was hoping to write about my fair isle border being all done by now, but it’s NOT done.   Here is the story of why:

border in progress

I LOVE working on this because each row is different and it’s beautiful to my color-loving heart.  But I’ve also been bit by the dying bug.



First I tried sassafras leaves because we have a lot of those, and I was very interested in trying some things growing around my yard.

sasafrass juice

It made a nice orangy brown.  I’m using the big 2lb alpaca fleece I bought, just trying to learn the principles of dying before “going for broke” with the nice actual yarn that I care about.  I thought it would be fun to dye the fleece in various colors and then spin the colors together randomly.

sasafrass dyed wool

I like the golden brown color, esp. the one on the left.  That one I boiled a lot longer, using wool that had been pre-soaked in vinegar as per Rebecca’s instructions.

Next I tried spinach and carrot juice.

spinach and carrot juice

You can see that by boiling them for an hour, I got an olive green and a pretty orange.   But when I added the wool:

no color

the color disappeared!  That’s when I learned about alum.  Alum is another type of mordant for your wool that Rebecca said you have to use instead of white vinegar for many types of dying.  The white vinegar is a mordant for the berry dyes, she said.  Oh.  What is alum, and where do I get it?  She replied that it’s a powder you use to help keep your blue flowers blue and I could find it a gardening store in Columbia named Gardeners.  Well, so far I have not been able to lay my hands on some, so I decided to just go with the poke berries for now.

Poke berries.  I learned over 2 weeks that it’s one thing to read about the adventures my daughter goes on to harvest 86 pounds of poke berries…’s another thing to actually try the same thing myself!  I picked and picked and picked…..cleaned out all the plants around my yard, my mom and brother’s yard, and then I became a poke berry hunter!  One day I drove all over the back roads of Highland, looking for more poke weed…..and then I found it!  Poke berry heaven!  On a deserted lot at a hair pin turn, I actually stopped the car and looked for a way to get at that mecca.  A kindly neighbor finally let me park in his driveway across the street after I explained to him what I was up to.

It had taken me about 2 weeks to harvest 7 pounds of poke berries up to that point.  At that vacant lot I picked 5 pounds in about 5 mins!  Well….OK…..20 mins.  And there were easily about 10 more pounds of the stuff!!  But I didn’t need that much.  I only needed enough to dye my 2.7 pounds of yarn, and some of the fleece.  12 pounds was plenty.

So the next day I followed everything on Rebecca’s post about dying with poke berries.

pokeberries, mashed

First I mashed and strained one pound of them.  Then I poured the juice over the mordanted wool and added more vinegar and water.  Apply heat.  Ta da!

pink and red dyed wool

The pink was the result of only a small amount of heat.  And the red was achieved by letting the dye bath carefully simmer for 30 mins.   It all worked, just like the instructions!  And she’s right that the berry juice is easy on your hands.  I didn’t worry about gloves until rinsing the dyed wool.  I over-dyed the wool I attempted to dye in spinach and carrot juice, as well as the lighter sassafras wool.  That all worked well.  You can see that some of the pink wool didn’t catch the dye very well.  It was hard to dye it all evenly.  But as it turns out, that didn’t matter.

variegated wool before carding

When I carded it, the wool started out like this.  Then it ended like this:

pink carded wool

All the variegation turned into a pretty fluff.  So fun!

red carded wool

And here’s the red.

Including the sassafras, I now have 4 ounces of dyed and carded wool, ready to spin.  But I only have a drop spindle that I haven’t used in about 2 years.  Better start practicing on that!

practicing my spinning

I bought this little 2 ounce bit at the Sheep and Wool festival.  2 ounces of fun fluff from Gnomegarden.  I’m slowly getting the hand of spinning again, but I’ve got a long way to go before I’m ready to spin a whole fleece.  But then I’ve got time…..since I still have 28 more ounces of fleece to play with.

I’m also knitting sweater for my mom on size 2 needles with Rebecca’s sock yarn, and I’m making progress on my scarf.  I was going to tell you all about that too, but this post seems long enough.  I’ll keep working on the fair isle border and let you know when I finish.  In the mean time, I can’t wait to get some alum and dye with goldenrod!!


4 thoughts on “Knitting and Dying and Knitting some more.

  1. OOOOOHHHHH Linda I love the colors! I am not a dyer and I let your daughter do that but that color with the goldenrod sounds like it should be good! I always brought alum in the grocery store? Is it not the same Rebbie???


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