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Natural dyeing wool with dandelion

The dandelion has just started to bloom in the fields. I'm curious to see how natural dyeing wool with dandelion will turn out. Now that I have an abundance of sheep's wool, the time has come to make something of it. I bought the book Wild Color by Jenny Dean and I'm eager to get started.
natural dyeing with dandelion

Just Dandelion should give a lime green

According to the book, the flower and the leaf of the dandelion together, and without (toxic) pre-treatment, produce a kind of lime green. That seems like a good idea to me. In ‘natural dyeing’ are used mordants to open up the wool. Aluminium sulphate is oftenly used. Acording to the book it is non-toxic, but copper another mordant is certainly toxic.

  • I bring an equal weight of leaf and flower of the dandelion to a boil in a pan and let it simmer for an hour, then leave it overnight.
dandelion natural dyeing wool
flowers and leaf of the dandelion
  • The next morning, I pour the mixture through a colander.
  • In the coloured water I add the wool (equal weight of the original plant material) and bring this slowly to the boil.
  • Let it simmer for an hour, cool down and leave it overnight.
  • The next day the colour is beige. But definitely not lime.

How to change the colour after you natural dyed the wool

The book contains a scheme of colour variations based on post-treatment of dyed wool. I choose acid (vinegar, citric acid), alkaline (soda, amonia) and iron because I have it on hand and in principle it is not harmful. There is an iron well just nearby. I have no idea what the ratio of iron is, but it smells and tastes strongly of iron.

  • I fill two glasses with cold water from the tap.
  • In the first I put a teaspoon of soda (1).
  • In the second a teaspoon of vinegar (2).
  • The third glass I fill with iron water from the spring (3).

You can immediately see the difference. Soda makes it yellower and iron darker. The vinegar makes little difference. 

After letting the wool stand for an hour, I carefully rinse it with water and let it dry. Indeed soda makes the wool dyed with dandelion yellow, vinegar makes relatively little difference and Iron makes grey in my case. I forgot to measure the PH of the water. For sure that makes a difference already in the first batch of natural dyeing.

Amazing to see how the wool changes colours with post treatments

The grey should have been dark green arcording to the book but I like the grey. It is amazing to see how the wool changes colours just with dandelion and a little bit of water from our well.

You can make your own iron water. Put some rusty nails into a glass jar with 2/3 water and 1/3 vinegar and leave it closed for one or two weeks until the solution turns a rusty orange colour. Thank you Jenny Dean for such a nice book.

See also:

Making natural dye with elderberry

Naturally dyes in bright and vivid colours

What makes woolen slippers sustainable or not sustainable?

How to put local sheep’s wool back into use

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What are your experiences with natural wool dyeing? Please comment below.

Picture of Mariette van Schaik
Mariette van Schaik

owner of Essential.blue

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