I’ve been experimenting with natural dyeing and the various dye-stuffs I find around the farm while I’m at home. What makes this all so much more exciting is the fact that the Royal Parents have an Aga, so I can pop my dyes in the simmering oven overnight and forget about them, waking up to perfect dye solution to pop my perfectly mordanted yarns into. If most of that is gibberish to you, fear not, I will talk you through the natural dyeing process…at some other point.
For now, suffice to say that I’ve encountered a dyeing disaster I never expected.
Dyeing Disasters with Dandelion
There are a number of ways in which dyeing can be a disaster. The dye doesn’t set, or it’s not colourfast. Your hands, kitchen, dog and favourite wooden spoon get coloured too. You use a mordant that is not very good for you, forget to take the proper safety precautions, and cause problems that your family weren’t expecting.
(Never fear: to mitigate problems, I have my own set of dyeing equipment, I use white vinegar as my mordant, and I have not dyed with anything toxic. I don’t take the safety of those around me or myself lightly.)
One of my first memorable Incidents can be experienced if you check out this post from the Plutonium Muffins archives. My dyeing has been relatively successful since, and today I decided I was going to try dandelions.
I spent a while this afternoon shouting with glee every time I spotted a dandelion flower to pick, amusing my parents while walking the dog around the stable yard. After making dinner and blackberry jam to try placate them as I started my latest round of dyeing adventures, this being the first I have attempted in this house when they have been around, I got around to boiling up my dandelion heads.
Mother did not take much interest in the procedure until right at the very end, as I showed her the beautiful pale golden colour my water had gone (and hence forgot to take a photo). At this point, she asks “you’re not going to poison us all with this little experiment are you?”
To which I foolishly replied “Of course not, Mother, people drink dandelion tea!”
Cheerfully carrying on with my procedure (strain dandelions, put mordanted fibre into the dye pot), I listened with amusement as mum searched the Internet, and found an article extolling the virtues of dandelion tea.
Your flowers are a thousand rays of golden light.
To my horror – I had, after all, experienced the smell of the well-cooked flowers as I transferred everything into my dye bath – ten minutes later we had brewed up a cup of dandelion tea each, and I am now sitting blogging about the episode with said brew next to me. John has sternly told me not to die (but to keep dyeing) while we have put dad on Ambulance Alert in case one of us breaks out in hives (as one of the readers of the forum on which we got our recipe feared).
I suppose it could be worse…it doesn’t taste too bad, despite mum stating upon first sip “it tastes like weeds!” I’m going to watch my mouth the next time we do our little colour experiments…I don’t suppose a blackberry tea would be too bad, but I’ll draw the line at drinking anything brewed from onion skins.
What about you? Ever tried to drink the ‘dyes’ into which you put your yarn? (We did brew our tea separately to the dyeing mixture…)