Combining hobbies is a passion of mine. Dyeing wool with flowers from the weed known as sour grass or oxalis happily combines nature, foraging, dyeing and eventually knitting or crochet. There's something so satisfying about delving deeper into the process of making and creating your own unique materials to craft with. There are a lot of beautifully dyed skeins of wool for sale in the shops but it's a lot more fun to forage for weeds and dye your own yarn!
My lovely friend Max got me onto dyeing with sour grass flowers. Once she did, I was driving everywhere, eyes peeled for the little yellow flowers. Thank goodness it's now spring and they're starting to bloom!
Oxalis flowers give a beautiful golden yellow colour. I've used a stainless steel pot to make my dye, if you use a copper or iron pot they will act as a mordant just like in eco-dyeing and change your final colour (I'm not sure to what as unfortunately I don't have those kinds of pots!). Adding bicarb of soda to the wool after it's been dyed with the sour grass flowers changes the colours. I read somewhere that oxalic acid can irritate the skin so if you're worried wear gloves when handling the dyed wool.
NOTE: never use your kitchen pots or utensils when you're doing natural dyeing, always use a separate set. Op shops are great places for old pots, bowls, spoons etc.
2 cups of oxalis flowers
1 litre water
Large stainless steel saucepan
Large metal bowl
Add the flowers and water to the saucepan.
Bring them to boil and simmer for 20 minutes.
Take off the heat and let the mixture cool down to warmish.
Strain the liquid into the bowl using the lid to stop the flowers going in.
Wet the wool and wring out the excess.
Add the wet wool to the bowl and soak overnight. The longer you soak, the stronger your colour.
3tbsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tbsp water
Rinse the wool in warmish water until the water runs clear.
In a small bowl mix the bicarbonate soda and water to form a paste.
Drizzle the paste over the wool.
Watch the colours change magically.
When you're happy with the colours, rinse of the bi-carb paste and hang your wool to dry.
You can also use a paste made from iron tablets to change the colour of the wool. I didn't have any so I tried magnesium tablets but they didn't seem to have any effect.
I'm excited about discovering other additives in my kitchen cupboards that can change the colours of my dye. I love the idea of having one plant and getting many colours. I'm also going to try using acacia flowers to dye wool. There's plenty of them around at the moment!