Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Natural Dyeing With Lupines

I've loved lupines forever.  Here in New Brunswick Canada they grow in a wide verity of colours.  So guess what I did!  You got it, I picked some for my dye pot!
Ever try to find information online about how to dye wool with lupines?  Very scarce.  I did find some info about dyeing with them in Iceland, but no recipes.  Grrr. Very frustrating as a new natural dyer.  I have about four natural dyeing books and no mention of them in there.  Rats!  So, I decided to wing it.

I picked a HUGE amount of lupines, as in an "oh my gosh, I'm dropping some" armful.  They literally covered the backseat.  My husband's car never smelt so good!  Once home, I went into the utility room and started "shucking" the blossoms off the stalks.  A whole 1400g of blossoms!  The dyepot was almost to bursting!  Notice the colour that transferred to my skin.

Next time, gloves might be part of the process.  (I kept the stalks; I've heard they make a lovely yellow colour.)  Just as I was about to put the water in, I remembered to test the ph level of the water!  New house and all, not sure about our well water.  Lucky for me, it's a 7, which is pretty much neutral.  Yay!

So, with just enough water to cover the blossoms, I let them come to a gentle boil then reduced to simmer for a couple of hours.  I let them cool overnight in the water, hoping to get the maximum amount of colour out of them.  Not sure if that was what to do, but hey, couldn't hurt, could it?  Then I used a stainless steel sieve to scoop out the veggie matter because the pot was simply too heavy to pick up!  The colour of the water was a pretty red colour.  Fingers crossed that it transfers to the wool!

Today, I mordanted 568g of sock wool, which is 75% superwash and 25% nylon.  I used 8% alum and 7% cream of tartar.  After the bath cooled down and was done, I rinsed the yarn thoroughly and put it in my cool lupine dye.  What did I see?  Red wool?  Nope.  (Grrr)  This kind of blueish green.  As per one of my dye books, I brought it to an almost boil and let it simmer for a couple of hours, stirring very carefully every once in a while.  The plan is to let it sit in the cooling dye bath overnight and see what happens...

While that is going on, I'm going to make a dye bath with the stalks.  And I'm going to see if I can mordant some more sock skeins.  And I think I'm kinda procrastinating on the "Roses for Margaery" socks.  Second sock syndrome?  While designing?  Killer.  Blah.

ETA:  Here is the lupine blossom skeins...  What do you think?  I kinda like them, but they are not very exciting.  Sort of a dove blue/grey. 

I did make a huge mash of the lupine stalks and let them sit for about 2 days after simmering them.  Yeesh, I was a bit hesitant to lift the lid, figuring it would smell to the high heavens, but nope, it actually smelt kinda good!  Weird, I know.  After scooping out all the veggie matter with my stainless steel sieve, I put the 3 extra mortanted skeins into the cool dyepot and let it simmer for about 1 hour.  It sat overnight to cool.  I wasn't crazy about the intensity of the colour, so I simmered it for another 1hour.  Later, I added a couple of "glugs" of white vinegar to a gallon glass jar of water, and draped half of the skein in it for 30 minutes. 

I did 2 this way.  I rinsed, washed with ph neutral dish soap (Dawn), rinsed some more, then spun in the washer.  Not a whole lot of colour rinsed out of the skein.  That was surprising.  Anyway, they are now drying.  The vinegar made the yellow softer.  I'm liking the look of them! 


  1. Wow I'm very impressed, I love the grey/blue you ended up with and I was surprised by the yellow shade you got. Very nice indeed. x

  2. Thanks! I think I'm going to try chopping up the blossoms AND the stalks next... they are suppose to make a gorgeous green. Here's hoping! :)

  3. How wonderful that you have lupines ! I live in Lupine country too... fields of them, and always wondered how they would dye in a pot ! Thank you for this post !

    Here is one post of mine with the lupine in it. (I designed a chullo I named "Lupinus Albifrons" fun.

  4. It is so exiting to see the very different colours from lupins and I also like the colours you achievd. I deyed with it on merino and sock wool, too and achieve a turquoise, yellow and green
    Every time it is fascinating again.