One of my goals this year is to learn how to dye my own yarn.  Instead of jumping in head first, I have decided to do some research.  Do I use natural or synthetic dyes?  What method should I try – kettle or handpainiting?  I prefer to knit with more solid color yarns so I know that I will start with kettle dyeing.  The most appealing dye method thus far are natural dyes, such as plants.  Making dyes from plants is not a new thing. It is, in fact, how we first got color. Our ancestors knew they could extract certain colors from certain plants.  The downfall with this method is finding the plants!  We can grow them in our backyard, but that takes time (and love and water, etc…).   I did come across Woolery.com and they have TONS of natural dyes and mordants available for purchase.  For synthetic dyes, washfast acid wool dyes seem to be an “easier” choice.  Less prep, less mess and more cost effective.  I have also read that with the professional dyes you don’t have to worry about fading and the color is pretty right on.  Plus you can do slight color variations to get that kettle dyed look, which I totally love. I wonder if this look is possible to do with natural dyes?

Do you know where natural red dye comes from?  It actually comes form an insect.

“Cochineal is a traditional red dye of pre-Hispanic Mexico. This precious dyestuff was obtained not from a plant, but from an insect that lives its life sucking on a plant. The host plants are the flattened stems (pads or cladodes) of certain prickly pear cacti (platyopuntias, Opuntia), especially the species called nopales. The animal is a scale insect that manufactures a deep maroon pigment and stores this pigment in body fluids and tissues. Early Mixtec Indians required dyestuffs because the color of daily attire was carefully codified to signal social status. They required fast colors, i.e., those that would not fade, and Mixtecs heavily used indigo, derived from native legumes, for blues and cochineal for various shades of red.”

cochineal

taken from: Red Scales in the Sunset

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