Beginnings: Natural Dyeing (and Overdyeing) in My Kitchen

25 November 2020
By Kim Werker
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After beginning this column by introducing my family’s mildly unhinged foray into hay farming, you might think my second column would pick up where we left off, after hints of dye plants and fibre-growing out at the farm. But this is a personal column, and I’m convinced that before we get to the grand plans, we have to start at the beginning of my adventures in natural dyeing.

I was certain the beginning of my natural dyeing experience was years ago, but searching for photographs for this column brought a shocker, thanks to the pandemic and its wibbly wobbly effect on time: My first time naturally dyeing anything was only nine months ago. I’d read about it before then, sure, but I didn’t actually dye anything until early 2020.

Photo of four unskeined hanks of yarn laid out on the diagonal. From bottom-left to top-right: two hanks brown then tan in colour; one hang dusty pink in colour; roving light pink in colour.

Yarn and roving dyed with avocado (pinks) and black tea (browns).
Image description: Yarn and fibre laid out on the diagonal; from bottom-left to top-right: brown yarn, tan yarn, dusty pink yarn, light pink fibre.

What tipped me over the edge from reading into doing was seeing somewhere that avocados produce peach or pink dyes. I found this so surprising and so much more exciting than playing with onion skins that I started saving pits and peels in a bag in my freezer. Eventually, I picked up some yarn blanks and spent an afternoon in my kitchen cooking up my first dye pot. It was so much fun, I raided a long-neglected cupboard and dyed some more yarn with ancient bags of black tea.

The results are in the photo here: the pinks are from the avocado; brown and tan from the tea.

About Kim Werker

Kim Werker (she/her) is a co-founder and publisher at Digits & Threads and Nine Ten Publications. She has worked in the crafts industry in one way or another since 2004 as an editor, writer, instructor and speaker. She's authored six books about crochet and one about making ugly things on purpose as a creativity exercise. Kim lives in Vancouver, BC, with her husband and son, and their mutt who's named after a tree.

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