Have you noticed the beautiful plant-dyed yarn that appears in the banner slideshow for our online shop? We are very proud to be the exclusive stockist of Mette Mehlsen’s yarns, which are dyed with plants collected from western parts of Jutland, Denmark, where she lives and dyes.
Susan (our lovely Loop proprietor) discovered Mette through her beautiful Instagram feed, and loved everything about what she was doing – from the natural dyes, the colours achieved and the use of white and grey wool native to Denmark right down to the beautifully simple wrapped brown paper bands. We’ve been carrying her delicious wools at Loop since last autumn and both Mette and Susan still get so excited about each new batch that is made for the shop.
Each ball is unique. Although, they may visit the same dye bath, the process is subject to the nuances of plant dying, which mean no two are alike.
Mette lives in Holstebro, which is a city in the western part of the region of Jutland, in Denmark. She collects many of the plants she uses for dyeing there.
The Handcraft of Plant Dyeing
We asked Mette what drew her to the use of natural plant dyes.
I have a livelong passion for textiles and textile handcrafts. My mother taught me to knit, before I learned to read. Thus, knitting, embroidery and crochet have always been my creative driving force.
Besides dyeing yarn, I work with textiles at a museum. One day, at the museum, I worked with natural dyed textiles from around 1800 – I was truly excited, and I began to practice the handcraft.
Dyeing yarn gives me so many opportunities to use my creativity. It is the handcraft, that fascinates me and draws me to use natural dyes rather than acid dyes.
There are many interesting processes within the craft of natural dyeing:
I need to know something about the plants I use, where to collect them and when they are in season and can be harvested and used for dyeing.
Sometimes, I dry and store the plants, so that I can dye them in winter times, where there is nothing to harvest in Denmark, apart from heather, which can be collected all year.
A crucial process in my work is to cook colour soups and to decide how many plants to use to obtain the desired colour. The experience I have obtained in recent years makes it much easier to decide how many plants to use, and that gives me a kind of freedom in my work – I can play with the colours much more than before.
The natural colors are different depending on when in the season they have been harvested, which temperature I cook them in, and how long the yarn is cooked. The outdoor temperature also influences the result. I always dye outdoors.
During the dyeing process it is important to control the temperatures of the water and how the colours are developing. That’s why I dye in smaller pots and only 100 grams of yarn at a time.
I dye many times in the same color soup, so that the yarn will obtain different nuances – and of course to use all of the natural dye.
When the dyed yarn is dry, I decide, which batches I want to over-dye with another colour, or if I want to experiment with new methods or new over-dyeing colours.
The last process in my work is to wind the yarn into small balls and put on banderoles.
Mette’s Plant dyed yarns are sold in 5 gram balls of about 65-70 metre lengths. This makes them perfect for using in smaller quantities, in a spectrum of colours, such as for embroidery or crochet.
Her dye stuffs include; Wild Chevril, Blue Sapwood, Madder, Indigo, Tansy, Heather, Oak Leaves, Walnuts, Dock, Reed and Cochineal. Many of these are then over-dyed with Indigo or Reed. Gradations of colour are achieved through different strengths of the dye bath.
Mette knits, crochets and embroiders with her own natural dyed yarns, which are lace weight.
“My fine yarn is especially good for smaller projects, such as scarves, wallets and bags.”
She lent us one of her stunning embroidered pieces, a hand printed and embroidered pouch.
She also made this glorious crochet scarf.
Why not try her yarns with our free Old Rose Wrap crochet shawl pattern? Or buy a few balls to add a lace border to your next shawl project. They are similar in weight to our BC Garn Semilla Organic Lace, which could be used if a large plain area is desired.
Whatever you do with these beautiful yarns, I hope you will think of Mette enjoying herself “making colour soup” in her dye kitchen in Denmark.
As a special gift to you we are giving away three of Mette’s beautiful bundles to one lucky winner. Simply leave a comment below saying how you might use one of the bundles. For an extra chance to win, follow Loop on Instagram at LoopLondonLoves and either repost our pic or use one of your own with the hashtag #LoopLovesMehlsen
Entries close midnight Wednesday April 5th.
Best of luck and happy knitting (and crochet! and embroidery!)
And congratulations to Tricia Kidd, Wendy Morris and Vivienne Bell for winning a copies of our Spruce pattern. We hope you love knitting it!
All images copyright Loop Knitting or Mette Mehlsen.