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.


Down the rabbit hole

Back in April this year – yep, lockdown time – Bonnie (@unionfibre) posted pics of an adorable little rabbit she was knitting called Bunny Odile designed by Cinthia Vallet (@fromcinthia).

I commented my delight and Bonnie suggested that some natural dyed yarn would be special. Well! What a great idea for lockdown dyeing. I had all the plant materials for rabbity-brown, and I had some lovely single-ply Merino from Wild Earth Yarns that was waiting for just the right project. So, down the rabbit hole I hurried.

I made a batch of dye with flax seed-pods from my garden that gave a lovely light brown and I splotched on some Logwood extract to give nice warm variegations and voilà, perfect rabbity-brown yarn.

As soon as that first skein was dry I cast on Bunny Odile and was transfixed with the process of knitting, in one piece, from the tip of her nose to her cute wee tail, a little lockdown bunny. I knit a pretty pink dress with bobbles to suit her plucky style.

One was not enough. I spent happy days making dyes with the flax seed pods, and Alder cones and walnut husks that I’d gathered at my friend Karen’s farm. I dyed up all the Merino single skeins I had left in various shade of rabbit; brown, beige and honey. I dyed yarn for clothes too, and knit another rabbit and sweater.

Thoughts gnawed at me during lockdown, that while I was happy, safe and secure at a home shared with my beloved, and having time to indulge my creative passions, outside my bubble I knew there were Mums and kids without such safety and security. And so, a little idea formed and percolated away and I’m pleased to share it here.

I’ve made up a number of Home Bunny yarn kits to sell. All the proceeds from these will go to Women’s Refuge to help them provide safe and secure homes for women and kids in need.  I’ll have these for sale at Capital Fibre Fest at Expressions Arts and Entertainment Centre Upper Hutt on Saturday 24thOctober. I’ll be there on the Palliser Ridge stand with Kindly Dyer yarns and the bunny yarn kits.

Each bunny yarn kit contains :

~ One 35g mini cake of naturally dyed single ply yarn to knit Bunny Odile

~ Three 20g mini cakes of naturally dyed fingering weight yarns in 3 colours to knit a couple of garments

~ A length of black wool to embroider eyes and nose on your Bunny

The colours for the garments are all from trials or happy surprises in the dye pots and every kit is a different colour combination.

If you don’t already have the pattern for Bunny Odile, it’s available online for purchase here on Ravelry or on PayHip.

You’ll also need 2.0mm double pointed needles or circular needle, and stuffing for the finished bunny.

You can see Cinthia’s other adorable animal designs here on Ravelry.