Marigold Dyeing

Happy Labor Day! I hope you're having a beautiful holiday (or a beautiful regular day, if you're not in the U.S.). I've just come back from a ride on our local bike trail. So glad I went! It's sunny, a little breezy, and an all-around gorgeous day. After yesterday's rain, there was no doubt in my mind that today had to include getting out in the sun.


Sunshine has been the theme of this long weekend (even during the rainy parts), thanks to my latest natural dyeing experiment. I decided to try dyeing with marigolds, using some Cormo yarn that I bought from Foxhill Farm's booth at the Massachusetts Sheep and Woolcraft Fair in May.

It was a great success! The flowers produced a beautiful sunshine-y yellow:


After consulting my favorite natural dyeing reference — Jenny Dean's Wild Color — I gathered both fresh and spent blooms from the pots of marigolds on my balcony and let them soak in water for about an hour. I strained the water into my dye pot — an old enamel pot I picked up for a few cents at a yard sale — and heated it to a very gentle simmer. While the dye pot was heating, I prepared the yarn by immersing it in a mordant bath, using a tablespoon of alum for the mordant. 

After letting the dye pot cool down a bit, I added the yarn, which immediately took on a yellow hue. So pretty! I then put the pot back on low heat and let it stay there for about 45 minutes, gently stirring the yarn every so often to promote even dyeing (but not agitating it, to avoid felting).

I'm not usually drawn to yellows for knitting but this one is just so cheerful. I couldn't wait to get it on my needles. While the yarn was drying, I got busy plotting and charting. I've already cast on a new design — a dragonfly-inspired cowl, using a modified version of the lace stitch from my Enallagma Shawl. It's coming along nicely:


Every time I wear this cowl, it will remind me of summer sun lighting up the marigolds. I'm definitely going to save more of the spent blooms for dyeing again later this fall, after Rhinebeck (I'm hoping to pick up more yarn for dyeing there).

Have you ever dyed with marigolds? Or other flowers? Please leave a comment — I'd love to hear how it worked out for you. 

P.S. We're starting to plan the next KAL in the Ravelry Blue Peninsula group. I've set up a poll to find out what everybody would like to do. Hope you'll come and vote, and join us for fall knitting fun!

Sneak Peek: Enallagma Shawl

Spend time near any lake or pond in summer here in New England and you're sure to see dragonflies and damselflies. Since the lace in my new shawl design reminds me of them, I decided to call it Enallagma, after the pretty blue damselflies.

This shawl has an asymmetrical shape similar to my Notch shawl. But while Notch begins from a few stitches and grows wider and wider, Enallagma is just the opposite: after working the lace section, one edge gradually tapers during the garter stitch-and-eyelet rows until finally there are just five stitches to bind off. So the knitting goes faster and faster as you go, which I found to be a great motivator to keep knitting!


Can you see from these photos what a lovely halo the yarn has? This undyed wool/mohair blend called Thelma & Louise comes from sheep and angora goats with those very names at Wing & a Prayer Farm in Vermont. I purchased it last fall at the annual New York Sheep and Wool Festival (aka Rhinebeck) with a shawl in mind. Now, many months later, that glimmer of an idea is a reality.

Summer lace — in nature and in knitting

Summer lace — in nature and in knitting

The pattern will be published just as soon as I finish editing photos and finalizing the layout. In the meantime, if you'd like to start planning, you'll need about 600 yards/550 m of DK weight or light worsted weight yarn, and US 6/4.00mm and US 7/4.50mm needles.