Dyeing & Modifying

At the end of August and during September, the fields in our valley that are not dedicated to some agricultural purpose or to natural grass, are loaded with sunflowers.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.


And they call Kansas the Sunflower State? Southeastern Colorado could give Kansas a run for its money. People also say that the snow drifts in winter will be as high as the sunflower stalks were in summer. If that’s the case, we’re going to be buried.


Because of the abundance of flowers, I just had to clip some and stick them in my dye pot. I had read that cone flowers were a dye plant, and sunflowers are related to cone flowers, so I thought I’d give them a try.






After using a mordant of alum and cream of tartar on 100 percent wool, and then simmering the wool in the dye solution of sunflowers, my results were a little less than spectacular. In fact it looked like spaghetti noodles.




This was when I decided to try the iron modifier that had been bubbling out on my back porch for several weeks. It consists of pieces of iron, like nails, steeped in a mix of vinegar and water. The plastic coffee ‘can’ is full of orange goo. It’s quite gross.




To see if the color would change, I just poured about a half cup of the iron mordant into my dye bath and let it keep simmering. I was amazed to see it turn green almost immediately.




I was pleased with that result so I kept it.


Then, at the Salida Fiber Festival on Saturday, I found out from a lady who uses natural dyes, that sunflower dye is transient. Transient means that it will eventually fade. Okay. That’s fine because the project for which the sunflower yarn is intended probably won’t be out in the sun where it can fade quickly, but I may not use it again. She did, however, recommend rabbit brush, which grows abundantly around Salida.


Guess what I did on the way home?




I’ll let you know how rabbitbrush works in the near future.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s