Category Archives: dyeing

Alternative Threads

Here at Tinctoria we don’t just hand dye wool. We also dye a variety of non-animal fibres using all natural materials, fibres like Cotton, Bamboo, Linen and hemp will all available.


I was asked not long ago whether we dyed yarns that could be used by vegans. I did some reading and initially decided to dye some Double Knit Pima cotton yarn. It proved to be somewhat different to dyeing with wool! It seemed all the advice around was to wash the yarn thoroughly before dyeing, not just scouring like with wool, but several stages of washing and soaking with Soda Ash. I washed all 5 skeins, but just soaked one skein in Soda Ash, this did not make the skein any cleaner and I came to the conclusion that the suppliers I use (AC Wools Ltd) supplied some excellently clean wool. Mordanting plant fibres is also a long process and if using the preferred 3 step method I may have ended up waiting weeks for the yarn to be ready to dye. I chose a 1 step method to mordant the cotton using Aluminium Acetate (ProTip: for the love of god wear gloves!). Following this, I dyed some of the yarn with madder, some with logwood and some with weld. The colour results differed from the wool that I dyed afterwards, but were really pleasing non the less, see picture above (sold out already!). I am not a fan of dyeing cotton yarn though, it tangled easily, tended to shed fibres like crazy and was generally a pain to use. Bamboo on the other hand has been fine. Glossy, took dye well and had non of the horrid “nails down a blackboard” feel I got with cotton. To be listed at the end of the week will be the two skeins of bamboo in “Autumn leaves” colourway.


Logwood Adventures

I have to first state that I love logwood dye. It comes as wood chips that you soak overnight before heating for a while before straining out the bits and the dye is ready to go. You can achieve the deepest purples, through lavenders to the loveliest pale purples. So this time I used it I was obviously not paying attention (tired, too many distractions) and I made some awesome mistakes! First I added boiled water to the chips and stirred. Then came back and added 2 miniskeins. And after 20 minutes checked the yarn and it was brown. Totally confused, I could not understand what I’d done wrong. So I took the yarn out, and realised it was covered with logwood chips. I hung it outside to dry and went for a cup of tea and to consult my notes. I quickly realised I hadn’t let the chips soak overnight, or heated them up for long enough, or strained out the bits. Ghahh! Taking a deep breath, I left the dyepot alone for the day. I dried the miniskeins and painstakingly picked out every fragment of logwood. The next day, somewhat more refreshed, I heated the dyepot up and added 5g of soda ash (making the mix more alkali) and strained out the bits. This did the trick and I soon had a super dyepot full of purple dye. But I learned a valuable lesson about always using my notes and not making potions when I’m tired!


The picture shows (left to right) immediate soaking in logwood dyepot with brown results, overnight soaking of logwood chips and a little soda ash resulting in beautiful dark blue/purples, a full skein of 4 ply yarn tie-dyed in logwood dye, the last two miniskeins dyed in a fairly exhausted dyepot resulting in a pale lavender purple.


Dyes and their sources

20170619_125656I dye yarn using natural dyes that I collect in the area around where I live, or I purchase them online. These dyes can be plant based (like woad, weld and madder) or animal based (like Lac and Cochineal). I am also looking forward to trying Fungi and Lichen dyes later in the year, if anyone lives in or around the North of England and want to join me on a foraging trip, let me know.

I buy most of my dyes from as either the dried form of the plant or as an extract. Its economical and results can be reproduced should I want to. I have also been experimenting with growing some of my own dye plants, particularly Woad, Weld and Madder. I love it! The picture above shows Woad seeds, dry and ready to either re-plant or dye with. I’ve also just harvested a miniscule amount of Weld tops. Its surprisingly rewarding to grow the dyestuffs next to my veggies and bee-loving flowers. All in a tiny West Yorkshire yard!

Coming Soon – Sock Boxes

Here at Tinctoria we will soon be offering a series of Themed Sock Knitting Boxes. Each kit will include enough 4 ply yarn to knit a pair of socks, either Double Pointed or Small Circular needles, stitch markers and a great pattern to follow. Themes will include Rainbow Stripes, Moorland, the Seaside, the Seasons and Yule. If you have an idea, let us know and well give it a go!

What will my finished project look like with naturally dyed yarn by Tinctoria?

As a quick demonstration we’ve knitted up a square and crocheted a flowery granny square to show just how wonderful a variegated yarn can be. The yarn we used was Blue Faced Leicester Wool, Double Knit. We dyed it with Onion Skins, modified with copper. As you can see, both knitting and crochet show the colour variations wonderfully, I would be so pleased with a full blanket of these squares!

What would you knit or crochet with our yarn?

Local Historical Dyeing

I was reading a book recently (Shalloons and Kerseys, Aspects of the 18th Century woollen and worsted trade in Halifax. Ruth Bean, 1979) and came across a diary entry from a local farmer regarding dyeing the woollen cloth he had woven, dated January 10th 1775. The entry is as follows:

to dey black worsted an asortment for 2 peses. In the first place bunch up your wersted very hard and put it in a Tub with hot Water but not scour it, and to stay till almost Cold. Then take 14 lb of Logwood, 4 lb of Shumack and boyle them up an hour, then cole down your lead, and not to lett it boyle at all but keep it quite hot, for the space of 2 hours, but in the middle of the Time take up your Worsted and turn the Strings. For the saddening part take your Worsted up and cole it straight, then take 6lb of copperas melt it in your liquer, then put your Worsted in for the space of an hour, then take it up and cole it very well and then turn the stings and in the Time of Cooling boyle up your Liquer a little, then cool it down that it will not boyle for the space of an hour, putting your Worsted in as before. For the last wett take 1/2lb of raspt Fustick and boyle it in your liquor very well wilst your worsted is cooling, then put in your worsted when it is cooled down for the space of an hour, then take it oute and cole it before you hang it by all Night, 4oz Tallow to put in with the Fustick. You must observe that your Lead never boyle, when the Worsted is in and also that you lett it hang all Night and take it to a Stream to wash it.

This was written by a man who was a farmer and also a weaver, in Halifax this was a common combination at the time. His farm was part way along a hillside with a stream in the valley bottom. He would weave and dye the cloth pieces and then carry them into Halifax to sell on. He clearly had access to buy large quantities of imported dyestuffs, then had to also make time for such a laborious dyeing process.

Now does anyone fancy the challenge of recreating this?!

Indigo Adventures

This week I dyed with Indigo for the first time. Of all my natural dyeing so far, I enjoyed this the most. It was sciency fun! Dyeing with Indigo involves removing oxygen from the dye vat, then when the yarn is removed and oxygen is reintroduced to the yarn the magical colour change occurs. Colour can be deepened by repeating the soak and expose process.

I had two skeins dyed with onion skins, a skein dyed with dandelions and two undyed (just pre mordanted with Alum). I also had two skeins of chunky wool previously dyed with walnut husks. When dyeing wool I don’t aim for a uniform colour, instead I try to show the variations that can be achieved with colour, often giving the wool a variegated or dappled effect. With indigo especially I also wanted to try a tie-dye effect. Each skein was immersed for approximately 5 minutes, with one of the undyed skeins being left in for 20 minutes. At the end of the process I immersed the two chunky skeins for an hour (the dyebath by this point was beginning to be exhausted).

The colours went from this:



To this:
The two onion skin and indigo dyed skeins turned green, the slightly darker shade achieved with an extra 5 minutes in the dyebath.

The dandelion and indigo dyed skein gave a mostly blue result. I expected this, the dandelion dye had given a very poor yellow colour and I wasn’t expecting a nice green to emerge.

The undyed skeins both dyed a great traditional indigo jeans blue, two differing shades due to the length of time in the dye vat.

The final two walnut husk dyed chunky wool skeins began life as a rather boring mid brown shade. Overdyed with Indigo (and tie-dyed in places) they emerged looking like a pair of slightly worn blue jeans.

The whole exercise has shown me how much value indigo has as a dye. And how much fun it can be to do too.

The next dyeing session will also be with indigo. I am going to dye a series of 25g and 50g skeins to achieve a range of blue shades to sell as an Indigo Ombre packs. I will also be dip dyeing and tie-dyeing 100g skeins. Vive le Indigo Revolution!

Dandelions and a question

This weekend at Tinctoria we have been gathering and dying a skein of New Merino Double Knit wool using Dandelions! After picking, shredding and boiling the dandelions we achieved a very subtle pale yellow. As a contrast we also dyed two skeins using yellow and red onion skins. The results were a fabulous deep golden colour. In the photo you can see the contrast between the undyed wool, dandelion dyed and onion skin dyed wools.

Now my question is should we overdye the lot with Indigo to achieve a series of greens and blues or stick with our lovely yellows? What do you think? Let us know…