Fun with bundle dyeing

Recently I’ve had a real buzz from playing about with eco-printing, aka bundle dyeing. I’ve been doing this in a small way for a while with the Palliser Ridge Romney lambswool and wanted to try a different yarn base with the flowers and bits and bobs of foliage I’d gathered up. 

I knew, more or less, what I wanted the result to look like and had figured out how that ought to be achievable based on what I have observed from my dye pots over the last couple of years. As well I’m really grateful that other talented dyers write books, share video clips, pictures and stories of what they do – it all adds to developing my knowledge and practice of natural dyeing.

This time I used a fingering weight plied Merino (treated for machine washability) yarn base (expertly made by Wild Earth Yarns in Christchurch), and prepared it using a standard wash and Alum (plus Cream of Tartar) mordant process. While damp I inserted a planned selection of the plant material – one combination to give me bright bursts of colour amongst swampy neutrals and the other for a medley of bright floral colours on a light, but not quite white, background.

Freshly picked marigolds and coreopsis flowers, dried dahlia heads (these ones were blood red flowers dried to a dark purplish colour), Harakeke (flax) seed-pods, alder cones and 3 varieties of dried Eucalyptus gum leaves.As well I used ground cochineal grits saved in the cloth I use for filtering the cooked cochineal from a previous dye day. I cut this into strips and wound it into the skein.

A pair of skeins for each colour combination – wrapped in gardeners frost cloth and lightly tied. One pair into a pot of dilute flax seed pod dye jus and the other into a pot of avocado pip and skin dye jus. Both brews had been prepared for a previous dye day and the left over jus frozen, and thawed for today.After an hour (ish) at required temperature the bundles were gently removed, drained and cooled slightly before opening to reveal the colours. This is so exciting. The colours and blends are MAGIC.

The results of this play are some of my best I think.

The intensity of colour from the fresh coreopsis and marigolds is fabulous and the dried dahlia heads have imparted a definite greenish grey that is a wonderful combination with the various brown-neutral tones of the flax seed pod and Eucalyptus leaves.

The success of this is just what I needed to inspire me to do more and better still.

Here is a swatch of the bundle that was dyed in the flax seed pod jus. I’ve now finished making a Love Note sweater with this yarn held together with a strand of beige mohair that I had in my stash.

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