wheat in grove field

dyeing for a change

It’s the time of year when I get a bit fidgety. Maybe it’s the balmy weather that makes for restless nights when ideas whizz around my head or just that everyone else seems to be slowing down for their summer holiday while here the stress levels are building in the run-up to harvest. Whatever the cause, the best remedy is to go for a walk.


The hedgerows around the farm are every shade of green with nuts and flowers adorning them and the colours of the wildflowers are ever changing (unlike my garden flowers, which peaked a fortnight ago and are now in various stages of decay) and as I walked, I thought it might be interesting to do something with them. We eat the berries and use a few flowers for gin or jelly but apart from a little jelly printing, that’s it.

For ages I’ve been planning to dye with plants. I’ve borrowed books from the library but never actually got around to picking plants and throwing them in a dye pot. But now, it’s summer. And I’m fidgety. Looking for something different to do.

I started with rose petals and beetroot because I read about it on one of those arty crafty blogs where everything is easy and the photographs of the results are stunning. I followed the instructions and pulled my yarn from the dye pot. I was highly delighted to find it was the same vivid pink as the photograph on the blog. Fleetingly, I had visions of a new career. Then I rinsed the wool. And my new career disappeared down the drain with the pinkness, leaving me with a hank of beige coloured wool. Never mind, I’m sure I can use a bit of beige in a hat or something. The fabric that I’d wrapped around a rusty screw was a dingy grey mauve with some dark marks randomly scattered across it. Interesting. Sort of.

lady's bedstraw

Undeterred, (because when I decide to do something, I don’t give up lightly) I cast about for something else to dye with. At this time of year we have masses of Lady’s Bedstraw growing in the verges, the root of which apparently dyes a light coral colour. The ground around here is pretty hard at the moment but I managed to dig enough to dye a very small amount of wool and a square of cotton fabric as an experiment. I duly soaked and simmered and cooled, taking time to do a little jelly printing with the flowers while I waited.

wool dyed with lady's bedstraw

I lifted the lid of the dye pot and … there lay a hank of beige wool and a square of cotton fabric that is beige with the merest tint of coral. I was a little disappointed. But I can knit wide beige stripes in the hat just as easily as narrow stripes.

I have since invested in A Proper Book because there’s a limit to how much beige wool I can use. The instructions are slightly more complicated than the ones I’ve found on blogs but if I can achieve something other than beige I shall be happy. I’m hoping for something subtle like Annie produces. More yellow than beige. Quite frankly, anything but beige.

Have you any tips? Do tell.