Dye wool with Tansy

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This was the first time I’d tried dyeing with tansy, and I was pleased with the speediness of the dye set and the resulting color. While a tint shift didn’t work as planned (adding ammonia did not yield a green shade as promised), the color we did get was a lovely saturated yellow.

Special thanks on this episode to my friend Amy Stender, who gave me the tansy to play with. Amy is a very talented and versatile crafter herself and you can find her work on Flickr and Instagram.

Also, a quick note before the recipe for Tansy: In the video I noted that my beet dye wasn’t very color-fast when exposed to light over a week. Live and learn!

To dye with Tansy

Step 1: Prepare the yarn.

Mordant the wool with alum. I use a 10% by weight-of-goods proportion of alum to wool. Botanical Colors has a great tutorial on mordanting with alum.

Step 2: Prepare the tansy.

Tansy matures later in the summer. Use big pruning shears or kitchen scissors to trim off the button-like flowers. Gather enough to fill your dye pot 3/4 full.

Step 3: Extract the dye and wet the yarn.

Place the pot on your heat source and top up with warm water, then add heat and bring to a gentle simmer (180 – 190 F). Stir occasionally and cook for about 20 – 30 minutes.

While the color is extracting, wet your yarn out in hot water in a covered container (like a bucket or extra pot with a lid) to retain the heat.

When the color of the dye is looking saturated, strain off the liquid into another pot or bucket. I use a mesh paint strainer for this purpose to catch all the fine plant material.

Step 4: Dye the fiber.

Pour the dye liquid into your dye kettle and place back on the heat source.

Gently lift your yarn or fiber out of the soaking container and place into the dye kettle. Give it a gentle stir and poke to submerge.

Simmer the yarn in the dye bath for at least an hour, giving it a gentle swish every once in a while (too much agitation can felt the yarn so stirring should be infrequent).

After about 30 minutes, turn off the heat and cover the pot. I like to leave my dye kettles overnight to cool slowly.

Step 5: Rinse and dry.

Gently lift the fiber out of the dye kettle and allow the excess dye liquor to drain back into the pot. Then transfer to a bucket of clean water and let soak for a couple of minutes. If necessary, lift the fiber out of the rinse bucket and place into a third bucket or pot of clean water, to rinse a second time. I’ve found tansy didn’t need much rinsing.

In a shady spot, hang the wet yarn up to dry or drape over the back of a lawn chair and allow to dry. You might want to bring the yarn inside after it stops dripping, as humidity in the air can keep it from drying completely outside.

Have you tried dying with tansy or other natural materials? We’d love to know. Leave a comment here or on the accompanying video and let us know how it turned out.

Published by Sarah Scully

Sarah is the owner/operator of Vermont Natural Sheepskins. She is an avid knitter and knitwear designer. She also enjoys cooking and gardening.

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