Dyeing and Fulling

I am at the tail end of my locally milled wool supply from Custom Woolen Mills in Carstairs, Alberta. Trying to eek out as much variety as possible from the last few hundred feet, I spent hours the other day naturally dyeing micro batches of wool yarn.

dried tansy

dried tansy

I started the day tackling the dried tansy that has taken over my desk since about August. I was ambitious in my adventures in collecting tansy out of the ditches in rural Alberta, but I had never though of just how long it takes to clip off every little flower head, and so my desk stayed covered for months.

making tansy dye

making tansy dye

I clipped off some tansy flowers, popped them into the pot to make a natural dye. I achieved a nice soft butter yellow.

soft yellow colored yarn resulted from being dyed in dye made naturally from tansy

soft yellow colored yarn resulted from being dyed in dye made naturally from tansy

In addition to tansy I also dyed the wool yarn in pomegranate, logwood, lac and turmeric dyes. Natural dyes have such earthy tones they almost always go together, so I will be able to knit many combinations from the yarn I dyed.

yarns dyed in (from left): pomegranate, lac, tansy, logwood, lac , turmeric, pomegranate, logwood

yarns dyed in (from left): pomegranate, lac, tansy, logwood, lac , turmeric, pomegranate, logwood

I have also recently decided to experiment with  fulling for a project I have in the back of my mind. Fulling is basically taking a knitted piece and by combining heat, cold and agitation, the fibres start to break down and merge together creating a much more dense piece of knitting.

the knit swatch before fulling

the knit swatch before fulling

After several different variations I eventually found the stitch combination and needle size that will work best for what I am thinking.

the knit swatch after fulling

the knit swatch after fulling – a much more compacted piece

I still have to decide just how much I want the stitches to disappear (how far to take the fulling).

the fulled piece after dyeing

the fulled piece after dyeing

This piece I chose to dye after fulling rather than before. The process is definitely unpredictable and uncontrolled, but that is probably part of the fun.

fulling resulted in a very thick and compact swatch - just what I was looking for

fulling resulted in a very thick and compact swatch – just what I was looking for

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7 thoughts on “Dyeing and Fulling

  1. I absolutely LOVE the colors you achieved! Commercial dyes just can’t match these colors. You also taught me a new term – fulling. I’m familiar with the term, felting. Is it safe to assume that “fulling” is a Canadian or English term and “felting” is the US word??

    • In what I understand, and in NO way am I an expert, fulling is when you felt a knit item while felting is when the process is completed just using fibre. Funnily I came across fulling while researching felting.

    • I buy the logwood as wood chips, then soak overnight, and dye. You can use the chips over and over with varying color results; temperature also seems to tweak the color. Turmeric is just good old spice like you use in Indian cooking, but used with great concentration. The final picture is after the piece had been through a normal washing machine cycle and the color holds nicely.

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