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Botanically dyed yarns

Posted on by MK Carroll

For over a decade, I worked in natural food cooperatives. I like food, and I like feeding people, so it worked out quite well! Knowing how much goes into food production, I also like to cut down on food waste when possible. One of the things I like about botanical dyes is being able to use up plant material, or get one more use out of it before it goes to the compost heap. Some of my favorite materials for dyes are the inedible parts of fruits: pomegranate rinds, avocado rinds, and avocado pits. 

Rosemary

Rosemary

Left: Thai basil blossoms. Right: Dried pomegranate rind, kukui leaf, and avocado rind. 

Left: Thai basil blossoms. Right: Dried pomegranate rind, kukui leaf, and avocado rind. 

Botanical dyes are often unpredictable. The number of variables is staggering - when the plant was collected, the soil it was growing in, the ph of the water for the dyebath, etc. etc. etc. can shift the resulting color. It's easy to see why synthetic dyes quickly took over in textile industries. 

Left: rosemary. Right: dried pomegranate rind and kukui leaf.

Left: rosemary. Right: dried pomegranate rind and kukui leaf.

Dried pomegranate rind and kukui leaf

Dried pomegranate rind and kukui leaf

The unpredictability can yield beautiful, unique results. I find them difficult to photograph the colors accurately - in the yarns above, there is a shimmering, almost iridescent quality to the colors. They are really best seen in person (and this batch is being delivered to YarnStory in Honolulu on Thursday). All of the skeins shown are a wool/bamboo/nylon blend sock yarn, and this time around there's just one skein of each color. 

Thai basil blossoms

Thai basil blossoms