Dyeing with Marigolds

Oh the color- and the scent of the marigolds is as equally impressive! My daughter, Kassie, and I harvested these beautiful marigolds from a friend’s country home in nearby Harrietta. My friend, Joy, is an expert natural dyer (although she doesn’t love that term) and she loaded us up on these marigolds that surrounded her garden. I just couldn’t wait to get home to the dye studio and start the marigold dye bath!

Step One – Scour Your Yarn

The yarn we’re using for our marigold experiment is sport weight 100% merino purchased through Knit Picks. The first step in the process was to scour our wool. Since the wool is purchased, it isn’t particularly dirty, but it’s best to be sure any oils are removed before dyeing. To wash the yarn I used Power Scour, a soap specifically designed for wool, but you could use Dawn dish soap as well. I just let it sent in the soap for an hour and then rinsed the yarn well.

Step 2- Mordant

We are using alum as a mordant at a ratio of 10%. The total weight of the dry yarn I want to dye is 600 grams. I divided the yarn into twelve 50 gram skeins so that I could experiment with different modifiers and dye bath concentrations. I also added cream of tartar as a modifier to the mordant bath at a 1 tsp per 100 grams of fiber. So in this case I put in 6-7 tsps. Just as a side note, I’m using rain water for both my mordant and dye bath. I first put the alum and cream of tartar in a heated small pot of water and dissolved it. I then added it to the large pot 3/4 full of rain water and stirred. The yarn was then added to the pot and simmered (not boiled) for an hour and then set aside to cool overnight.

The yarn was then added to the pot and simmered (not boiled) for an hour and then set aside to cool overnight.

Step 3- Making Your Dye Bath

I know, I know, when you’re dyeing you’re suppose to take good notes. This was a day just for playing around so the following figures are just a guesstimate from here on out. To the dye bath I added tons and tons of marigolds. I’m guessing about three gallons and my WOF was 105 grams. I’m not 100% sure what ratio that is, but it’s quite a bit of dye material to wool.

I simmered the dye bath for an hour.

Step 4- Dyeing Your Yarn

After simmering, scoop out the marigolds and add the yarn. Let the yarn simmer in the dye bath for an hour. If not using a modifier, remove the yarn, rinse well and hang to dry.

Step 5- Add a Modifier if You Want

If you want to change the color of your dye bath, you may want to add a modifier. I common modifier I use is an iron mixture. I made the mixture by putting in rusty nails, white vinegar and water in a jar and let it set for 3 days. When I want to change the color I scoop out some dye bath water and put it in a bowl and then add in the fiber. The color changes right away and setting in the iron bath is for long is not good for the wool so I take it out after 5 minutes and then rinse.

Now Let’s see What we Have

The expected result when you dye with merigold is a soft yellow. I got a strong gold and then a deeper greenish color when I added the iron modifier. It wasn’t what I was expecting, but then again I used a whole lot of dye material. I wanted to see if I could get that yellow so I went back and added fiber to the exhausted dye bath and in fact did get a soft yellow. I just love experimenting so I wasn’t too disappointed when I got the gold- I’ll use it for something. I also like to at least be in the ballpark with getting expected colors so next time I’ll really cut down on the amount of merigolds.

Items and Resources Used in this Project:

  • Alum
  • cream of tartar

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