Wednesday, 4 April 2018

The Ground Elder Cardigan - part two of three

The natural dyeing

Now the project could start. I began with picking the Ground Elder, we had a lot in the garden so no problem with that, I used leaves and stems and would be working at 200% to dry weight of yarn. I find the dyeing is most effective if the bits of dyestuff are small and present a larger surface area, so I set about tearing up 880g of ground elder into smaller pieces. I was disappointed that I didn’t actually use much of my total crop in the garden.  I soaked the plant material for a couple of nights in rainwater. 

A neighbour had given me an old Burco boiler minus the lid. We replaced the ageing wiring and found a large dish meant for standing a large plant pot in would act as a lid. So all the soaked Ground Elder and water was added. I brought this to the boil over approximate 45 minutes  and boiled for an hour. I then left it to cool over night. 

Now all I needed was a good run of weather as I do my Natural Dyeing outside. I set about skeining the wool which was quite a job  as I needed 3 figure of 8 ties in each one. I decided to use acrylic ties in a yarn colour close to the intended version of the Ground Elder that would be their  final colour. For example I used a light and dark green as these two shades were in my plan. This turned out to be a very good idea. 

I had a lot of yarn to dye and decided to split it into two dye pots. I wanted to ensure there was free movement of the skeins to get the best possible result I could. 

Next came the scouring of the yarn (I use washing up liquid of a well known brand) and mordanting using alum and cream of tartar based on my usual recipes.

The skeining of the yarn to be dyed, the scouring and mordanting took a full day. 

I then set about dyeing all the yarn to be dyed in strained Ground Elder extract.  I had divided this between two pans to allow ample room for movement of the yarn. I heated the yarn up to boiling taking approximately 45 minutes and then left it simmering for the same time. After that I removed the yarn that was to be used as Ground Elder colour and rinsed this a couple of times.  It was hung on the line to dry with a knitting machine weight to keep it under some tension, which would keep the yarn straight. I also soaked the ground elder dyed yarn which I wished to lighten in a 4%  cold soda and exhaust ground elder solution for 20 minutes. Soda can damage wool, so I checked this every 5 minutes. 

I had two colours now:

Light yellow from the ground elder unaltered

Brighter yellow from the addition of soda 

While this was happening on dyeing day one, I scoured and mordanted the yarn that was going to be left as off-white. I did this as the yarn is quite oily and I would therefore knit with yarn that had had virtually the same treatment and would give me a better tension. 

Tomorrow I would over dye and use additives to get my other 5 colours. The weather was good and I achieved the other colours thus:

Orangey shade - 10% madder solution on to the yellowy would give me an orange shade. Remembering that when wet the yarn is a darker shade, I judged when to remove it. 

Dark greyish - 10% logwood, again I judged when to remove the yarn. 

Light green - 5% iron sulphate solution was used , this was brought to the boil for 3 minutes

Darker green -more of the 5% iron sulphate solution 

Brownish - 5% copper sulphate solution was used. 

For the above, the yarn was placed in a pan of exhaust ground elder liquid with the additive dissolved first, before adding the yarn and heating 

So including the off white yarn I now had my eight colours. The yarn needed balling ready for the knitting. 

Final colours used:

Top row: ground elder on its own, ground elder and madder, ground elder and iron 2

Middle row: ground elder and logwood, off white yarn, ground elder and soda

Bottom row: ground elder and copper, ground elder and iron 1 


  1. Wow! You really benefit from that science background. Mind boggling! Very impressed with the results.
    It is very good to read you, except for the spinning but I know you can, started at the very beginning.

  2. Your journey is wonderful! My only suggestion is a lighter gray background since it is difficult to read with such low contrast. Thanks.

  3. Did you stabilize your logwood-dyed yarn with an indigo riff?

  4. I just used the logwood as I made up the solution. I haven’t had any trouble doing it that way in the past.

    Thanks for the comment about the too dark background. I will see if I can adjust the background. It is part of the template and my IT skills may not be up to it, but I will try....