A Natural Dyer’s Home & Garden Series Part 3
This series is about different kinds of plant materials that are suitable for natural dyeing. Today will be about 5 weeds & wildflowers you can use for natural dyeing.
If you haven’t read the first two posts of the series yet, you can click here for the first part. In this post I covered 6 garden plants you can use for natural dyeing. And here is the second part where I talked about 5 kitchen scraps you can use for natural dyeing.
If you want to know more about the natural dyeing process itself, you can have a look at my blog post How to Dye Yarn with Natural Dyes. I have also written a few more posts on this topic which you can find in the natural dyeing category of the blog. And if you are interested in the yarns that I show in this post, you can find them in my Etsy shop.
Weeds for Natural Dyeing
Okay, let’s talk about weeds now. But what exactly is a weed, actually?
According to Wikipedia, “a weed is a plant considered undesirable in a particular situation, “a plant in the wrong place”. Examples commonly are plants unwanted in human-controlled settings, such as farm fields, gardens, lawns, and parks. Taxonomically, the term “weed” has no botanical significance, because a plant that is a weed in one context is not a weed when growing in a situation where it is in fact wanted.”
This indicates that the evaluation whether a plant is considered a weed or not, is rather subjective. It also alludes to the fact that plants that are considered weeds or grow wild in some regions might be treated as garden plants in others parts of the world.
The plants that I mention in this blog post are considered weeds or grow wild in the southwest of Germany where I live. It might be completely different in your region.
But even if a plant is commonly known as a weed in your area, it doesn’t mean that it can’t have lots of beneficial qualities. Some of the plants I am about to mention can be eaten, used for teas and other applications. And of course, they all have in common that they are suitable for natural dyeing.
Nettle, also called common or stinging nettle, is a native plant here in Europe. It is not only great for natural dyeing, but has long been used for traditional medicine, food and as a textile raw material. Nettle is one of the dye plants of which the final color result on the yarn changes depending on the season. It is best used in spring when the shoots are fresh and young. Then, you can receive a beautiful sage green. The dyeing process yields a beige with a green undertone at first which transforms into a green with the use of iron.
Update Jan 30, 2023: There is a blog post all about dyeing yarns with nettles if you want to know more. You can find it here.
Although I have already mentioned goldenrod in my post about garden plants that are suitable for natural dyeing, I wanted to take the opportunity to mention it again in this post. Where I live, goldenrod can be found growing wild. And it has seeded themselves in my garden a couple of years ago which is how I discovered it’s dyeing potential.
Goldenrod is a very powerful dye plant which creates beautiful bright shades of yellow. You don’t have to use large quantities of it and it is even possible to use the solar dyeing method without any additional heating except for the sunlight.
#3 Queen Anne’s Lace / Wild Carrot
Queen Anne’s Lace or wild carrot is another example of a plant that grows wild in my surrounding area. But I know that some people also like to cultivate it as a garden plant. It is considered a beneficial weed that can be used as a companion plant to crops like tomatoes or lettuce.
When used for natural dyeing, Queen Anne’s lace yields a beautiful vibrant shade of yellow.
#4 Red Poppy
In some years, there is a large amount of red poppies growing around here. It can be found in the fields, in small green areas but also growing between pavers. And in other years, I see hardly any poppies at all. I have only tried natural dyeing with poppies once. In one of those abundant poppy years I picked a few flowers and put them in my dye pot. Red poppies can yield beautiful shades of mauve. But you will need about a 1:1 ratio of petals to yarn which means you have to collect lots and lots of poppies. I couldn’t bring myself to pick more than a few and was curious to see the color result anyway. But I only received a light beige from 23 g of flower petals.
In the spring, dandelions pop up everywhere around here. Although they are considered a weed, I really like their appearance. I intend to let them grow undisturbed in my new garden (which I am currently in the process of planning).
Dandelions have evolved about 30 million years ago. The can be used as food, herbs and in traditional Chines medicine.
For natural dyeing, you can use the flowers alone and achieve a yellow color. Or you can combine both the flowers and the leaves to get greeny-yellow shades. I have actually not dyed with dandelions before but since quite a few of them just came up in my garden, I will use them very soon. I will get back to you with the color results. Some day in the future, I would also like to try making dandelion honey.
Update Jan 30, 2023: You can find the blog post about how to dye yarn with dandelions here.
Other Weeds & Wild Growing Plants with Dye Potential
There are several more weeds & wildflowers you can use for natural dyeing. Common yarrow, ivy and tansy are among them.
What are weeds or wildflowers in your area that you like to use for natural dyeing? Come share in the comments!