Sunday, 8 May 2016

Daffodil dyeing on a very local fleece

On a whim, as the daffodils were past their best in the garden I decided I would dye with daffodil as I had not tried this before. I knew I had a FSM - fermented suint method- (1) fleece from my neighbour. The sheep had spent some time on the field at the back of our garden so this appealed to me. The most local fleece I had and daffodils from the garden. I picked 200g of daffodil heads and put them in to soak for a week. So that 'said to me' I had 100g of wool to sort. In my head that translated into 10 skeins and 10 colours. So that became the project 10 colours from my daffodils on local wool - great. The sheep is not kept for its fleece, but for its taste! It is probably Texel!

So the rest makes sense here is the range of colours I obtained: left to right:
Daffodil: daffodil+ iron: daffodil + tin: daffodil + copper: daffodil + madder: daffodil + acid + iron 2: daffodil+ cochineal: daffodil + indigo: daffodil + alkali + logwood: daffodil + indigo 2 : yarn undyed
( if you came this way from Facebook, the colours will be slightly different as the images were taken with my iPad ( Facebook) and my 'real' camera for here)

I usually dye skeins not fleece, but this was going to be a departure for me, I was going to dye 'in the fleece'. This would mean I had to guess when dividing the wet daffodil dyed fleece into 10 lots. I decided I would do that although it offended my perfectionist tendencies.

After a week, I prepared the dye by my usual method , heating up the plant material and then leaving it to soak in the pan overnight before straining it. Next day I scoured ( washing up liquid) and mordanted the fleece (alum and cream of tartar) and then added this to the dye pan and the result was this. A very good colour to the fleece.
I divided the dyed fleece into 10 lots - didn't enjoy this much and regretted that I had not used skeins- but reminded myself it was needs must. Dye with daffodil like this or do not dye with daffodil at all. ( I do not have freezer space for large amounts of dye plants like I did before we moved back to Norfolk!)

I rinsed and dried one 10 g lot and then used additives of iron, tin and copper on three others so that by the end of the day I had 4 colours. The other 6 fleece 'lots' I kept is separate lots in plastic bags, tops folded over but not sealed.

After each dyeing session, the fleece was washed, I then hand picked it, hand carded it and then it was a session with the spinning wheel. I was really pleased with the resulting yarn. Although this didn't convince me that dyeing before spinning was my favourite method! However, it was fun to see what colour the spun up skein would be.

The next day I used acid ( white vinegar) and alkali( washing soda) as additives.
I checked that I was happy with the pH of each solution and the result was two shades of yellow that were very different from each other. However, on drying they were too close to the daffodil on its own (acid) and daffodil with tin (alkali) for my satisfaction. So thinking cap on and two different dyeing routes needed for these. (If you use washing soda as an additive do be careful, alkali is not good for wool. I rarely use acid and alkali as additives, as I have not found that either has significantly changed the original colour in all my dyeing yet and got more confirmation of this with daffodil! So still 6 more colours to find. I knew how I was getting the 4 I thought I would be left with, so just needed to decide what to do with these 2 extras.

So the following day I was going to make up a logwood bath and used that for overdyeing the daffodil+ alkali skein. I really liked the iron colour so decided to get a darker tone than I had already with the daffodil and acid skein. So this would account for the two extra colour I hoped. Yes, 2 very different colours and I was very happy with them.

For 2 of the remaining skeins I made an indigo bath and dipped the skeins for different lengths of time in total. Colours just as I hoped for.

For the remaining 2 skeins I made up a madder bath and cochineal bath and used these as an overdye. Again, all went to plan.

So 10 colours. However, I like to have a skein of the undyed yarn.

So the set of 11 skeins is shown at the start of this. This has been great fun and the colours reflect my house and garden at this time of year.

This is not quite the end of the daffodil story.
There were some daffodils that were not quite ready for de heading. I now have 40 g of these - 2 more lots of dyeing. These heads are in the freezer as I am going to experiment to see if the daffodil colour is even better from freezing. I know some people note this, so I will be doing the best controlled experiment on this that I can.

(1) FSM is my version of letting the fleece wash itself. To me, this is brilliant, no soap involved at all and just a nice amount of lanolin left in for spinning. Use the labels in the right of blog to see what I do if you are interested. I have described my method and shown pictures!


  1. Hi Janet, the range of colours are gorgeous. Great that you tried something new with the fleece, & dividing it up by eye- radical!! The local nature of it all is very appealing too. Have you plans for your skeins?
    Joy x

  2. A great description of the work you do. Wonderful results. Will this become a hat?