This blog post contains a step-by-step approach of how to dye yarn with dandelions. Although they are often considered weeds, dandelions have many interesting properties and thus can be used in various ways. I have listed some different applications below. But we will first and foremost focus on the natural dyeing properties of dandelions.
In a previous blog post about 5 Weeds & Wildflowers You Can Use For Natural Dyeing I already mentioned the use of dandelion as a dye plant.
Description & Origin of Dandelions
Dandelions are a species of flowering plants in the Taraxacum genus. They belong to the Asteraceae family. The common name dandelion comes from the French term “dent de lion” which means lion’s tooth. It depicts the form of the leaves. Dandelions appear in early spring and are an important nectar source for a multitude of pollinators. They are well known for their yellow flower heads and round balls of silver-tufted fruits. Dandelions are perennial plants.
Dandelions are thought to have evolved about 30 million years ago in Eurasia. Today they are present on six continents.
Uses of Dandelions
The entire plant, including the leaves, stems, flowers, and roots, is edible and nutritious, with nutrients such as vitamins A and K as well as calcium and iron. Dandelions can be harvested from the wild or grown as a leaf vegetable. The leaves can be eaten both raw and cooked.
The flowers can be used to make a honey substitute syrup.
Dandelions have been used in traditional medicine in Europe, North America, and China. The first evidence for their therapeutic use was mentioned by Arabian physicians of the 10th and 11th centuries. Dandelions are used as a natural remedy to support blood sugar management and to boost skin, liver and heart health.
Obviously, dandelions can also be used for natural dyeing purposes (hence this post). Let’s have a closer look on how to dye yarn with dandelions now.
Tips for Dyeing Yarn with Dandelions
#1 Gentle Dyeing Process
As is the case with natural dyeing in general, slow is usually best. Slowly heating the plant material until just before simmering, letting the dye solution sit overnight before filtering off the dye material or even heating a second time is beneficial to the color depth of the dye solution. Cooking the dyestuff can dull the color.
#2 Freshness of the Plant Materials
In general, using fresh plant material will create more vibrant colors compared to dye stuff that has been stored for some time.
#3 How many Dandelions should I Use? And Which Parts?
Obviously, the higher the amount of dyestuff you use compared to the weight of the yarn will result in more or less intense colors. For my experiment, I used about the same weight of dyestuff and yarn. But I also successfully tried using only about half of the amount of dyestuff. You can utilize both the heads and leaves for natural dyeing purposes. I tried using only the heads as well as a mix of leaves and heads and didn’t notice a significant difference in the final color results.
How to Dye Yarn with Dandelions: Natural Dyeing Process
Pour boiling water over 30 g of dandelions heads (pot A) and 15 g of dandelions heads and leaves (pot B) and let them sit overnight. On the next day, slowly heat them until just before simmering for half an hour. Subsequently, turn off the heat and let the dye solutions sit overnight. On the following day, filter off the dyestuff.
Add two mini skeins of yarn (15 g each) which were mordanted with alum beforehand to each dye pot. You can learn all about how I mordant my yarns in this blog post.
Next, slowly heat the dye pots and let them simmer for 60 minutes. Then allow the solutions to cool down and sit overnight. On the following day, take the skeins out of the dye baths, wash and hang to dry.
Modifying with Iron
If you want to broaden the color spectrum that dandelions can produce, you can do so by modifying your yarn with iron sulfate after the dyeing process is complete.
In order not to damage the fibers and make them brittle, I only immerse my yarns in an iron bath for a short amount of time and without applying any heat. You can read all about my general method for modifying yarn with iron in this blog post. Usually, I only let the yarn sit in the iron bath for about 30 minutes. However, I didn’t see a significant change in color with these dandelion dyed skeins. Therefore I allowed the skeins to sit in the iron bath for 60 minutes. Afterwards, wash out the skeins thoroughly and hang to dry.
How to Dye Yarn with Dandelions: Color Results
Now, let’s have a look at the color results. According to the literature, I was expecting a bright yellow from dandelions and a muted green after modifying with iron. However, the final colorways are a lot softer and less clear than I anticipated.
The dandelions themselves created a soft vanilla (pot A) and beige (pot B). And after modifying with iron, the skeins turned into a light greyish green color.
Have you tried dyeing with dandelions before? Which colorways did you achieve? Come share in the comments below, I would love to know if your experiences are similar to mine.
Pin It For Later: How to Dye Yarn with Dandelions
If you want some more inspiration on plants and other natural materials you can use for natural dyeing, I recommend that you have a look at these blog posts:
Further Reading on Dandelions
Dean, Jenny, et al. Wild Colour: How to Make & Use Natural Dyes. Mitchell Beazley, 2018