Beautiful natural dyes + a great giveaway!
This week we’re so excited to tell you all about the naturally dyed yarns we stock at Loop! With summer upon us, we’re so looking forward to knitting up all these gorgeous colours into bright garments and shawls, or embroidering little motifs onto bags, jumpers and socks. We are also running a wonderful giveaway this week, so be sure to read to the end to find out what you can win and how to enter!
Plant Dyed by Mehlsen
Loop was smitten with Plant Dyed By Mehlsen as soon as we started seeing images of the beautiful little bundles. When we held the dyed threads in our hands it just confirmed our love for them! We stock Mette’s beautiful bundles of yarn, as well as kits for crocheted shawls made with her plant dyed colours that she has created for Loop.
We were lucky enough to get some wonderful information from Mette about her love for colour and her process.
I have a lifelong passion for textiles and the crafts of textiles, and I have as long as I can remember expressed my creativity through knitting, embroidering and crochet. Besides plant dyeing yarn, creating designs and teaching the craft of textiles, I work with cultural history objects at a local museum here in Denmark.
My passion for dyeing with plants actually occurred at the museum after I handled some plant dyed textiles from the nineteenth century. I’ve always believed that it gives me a deeper understanding of a craft, when I can explore it both theoretically and practically.
That’s why I started to experiment with plant dyeing on my own yarn about seven years ago. Here, I found out quickly, that the craft of plant dyeing obtained thousands of possibilities – and a new world was opened to me.
Today, my yarn is dyed with plants that I have picked in nature surrounding me in the western part of Jutland, Denmark. I harvest the plants both early, mid and late season, as well collecting supplies that I can use later in the year. I supplement the harvested plants with cochineal, madder root and indigo.
I always conduct experiments in my workshop, which makes me more experienced in the processes of the colours. One colour can vary a lot, depending on when in the season I am dyeing with the plant and if I ferment the colour ‘soup’. I do also always dye outside in the fresh air where I have my workshop. Here, I also have experienced, that the results of dyeing with indigo varies in frosty or warmer weather.
I do not have a specific favourite colour – instead, I think every single plant is special. Every time I dye a new bundle, I get surprised by the amazing colours. For instance, I dyed a bundle with puzzle grass and covered it with indigo last spring – and the result was a crystal-clear turquoise, which usually is very difficult to achieve with natural plant dyeing.
For me it is fascinating to get the best out of the natural resources. And that is why I always try to leave nature as untouched as possible when I am harvesting: I never take all of the plants or touch the roots, so it can flourish again in years to come.
I do not have specific favourite colour. But I love to dye with the first docks in early spring. It is magical and always give a lovely and powerful yellow colour on white wool.
There are a lot of different processes connected to dyeing yarn. I dye on white and grey wool yarn from Germany, which is biodynamic, organic and KbT certificated by IMO. I receive the yarn on cones, which I wind up in bundles of 50 grams. I usually dye between 100 and 200 grams, which makes it possible to follow the process in the pots. I leave most of the dyeing outside in the pot overnight to cool them off slowly. Afterwards, I wash off excess dye, before I wind the small balls of yarn for sale.
I usually get my ideas for new colours or designs while I’m involved with the more physical processes of the craft – especially when I am harvesting. When I choose colours for my designs, it is an advantage to have all the variants of colours accessible. I think that the most wonderful compositions occur automatically, when more colours are mixed randomly side by side.
I usually set the criteria for my new designs on advance. When I created the Flower Power Scarf for Loop I had some specific criteria for the crocheted square: It should be crocheted with both one and two threads to create variation of colour and texture, It should feel light, there should be one base colour and I wanted to create a 3D-effect. After this process of choosing the criteria for the design I started to experiment with crochet hooks or knitting needles to the point where I got a satisfying result – usually, new ideas are occurring to me during this process.
Teinture Sauvage roughly translates to ‘Wild Dye’. The beautiful yarns and colours achieved by Céline, living and working in France, come from working with only 100% natural wool and dyes with full traceability. We just love these beautifully boxed thread sets for embroidery!
We also got some lovely information from Céline about her process and her brand, and her love of natural dye. We feel very lucky to have her beautiful embroidery threads that she has put together for us in special Loop boxes!
My love of aromatic and medicinal plants, wild plants, led me to be interested in plant colour. The chemical compounds of plants with medicinal virtues also often have dyeing properties.
Nature is so learned. To love it and appreciate what it can offer us is the meaning I wish to give to my work with Teinture Sauvage.
To make a natural colour, it is necessary to create an affinity between the dye of the plant and the fibre to be dyed so that the colour holds. As the dyers say, you need a mordant. It is generally the metal ions that create this affinity. Traditionally, aluminium salts are used. Today they come from mining quarries exploited in southern countries or in Asia with a very harmful ecological impact on nature and local populations.
This is why, to be consistent in my approach, I have chosen not to use aluminium salts in my dye baths. I only use plants. Some plants, because of their richness in alumina, iron or oxalic acid, can act as a mordanting agent. Other plants, because they are rich in colour, are used for colour. I really like to work with wild plants and tree bark. Some plants that I use regularly in my work are; for yellows: rhubarb, turmeric, goldenrod, burdock, St. John’s wort, reseda; for red, purple and roses: madder, cochineal, lake, sappan wood, orcanette, campêche wood; for blues: indigo and campêche wood; and for browns and oranges: henna, roucou, cachou, oregano.
Making colour with plants is very stimulating. All the senses are awakened: the sense of smell with the scents given off by the baths, the touch of natural materials, the sight while watching the colour of the dye bath. I love this experience; a creation or rather a revelation of the alchemy of plants through colour. Dyeing is a way for me to “feel” the hidden treasures of nature.
Temaricious produce beautiful naturally dyed threads, and they also produce Temari balls, the practice of which is a Japanese folk art.
Their threads are dyed with plants that are foraged from the local area, as well as various locations in Japan. The ladies from Temaricious also grow seasonal plants and weeds and use those to dye with too.
Temaricious is also keen to promote Temari making culture to the world, organising various workshops in and outside of Japan.
We have long loved the Temaricious threads for embroidery and darning especially, but they can also be used for very fine knitting and crochet work, especially the naturally dyed cashmere bundles! Rita and Naho are wonderful women and have also created special thread sets for us over the years.
Twirl begins with the land, and moves from the soil to the plants and animals that live in the place. Twirl yarn encompasses stewardship, husbandry, artistic endeavour, compassion and commitment. The yarn they make takes these qualities — and through daily chores of feeding, husbandry, washing and blending, washing, dyeing and preparing — to final form.
The breeds of sheep Mary chooses to be part of her family are luster longwool breeds. Known for their qualities of luster, strength and softness, authentic to the animals that make this fiber.
Mary, owner of Twirl, who lives in the Napa Valley in California, says;
“I have lived for over thirty years now on this same ranch. I run cattle, sheep, goats, llamas, alpacas and all sorts of dogs to help me with my flocks. I have had a long time to observe the natural plants on this property, and have come to appreciate the floral diversity here.
In the gardens around our home, is yet another wonderland of color. All the neighbors want to offer plant prunings and fruits they have to be part of this project. I feel like I am living in the middle of a huge and wonderful science project.
The dyes I use that are closest to my heart are from the plants that grow here where I live. I feel that when I use these plant dyes I am fully embracing the sense of this place. It is a hidden beauty that emerges when the essence and color of these plants, which grow on this soil, are combined with the fiber that is also grown here and are of this soil.”
Terroir is a term that describes something that is fully influenced by your location. This is truly a taste of Mary’s world of Twirl.
Thank you to all of the wonderful women who make their magic with natural dyeing and for supplying your beautiful things to Loop. You can see more objects such as our Kaliko bags and books about dyeing over on our website.
A fantastic giveaway…
Alongside this lovely information-packed blog post, we are running a fantastic giveaway!
We are running one giveaway here on the blog, and one over on our Instagram, @looplondonloves. There will be one winner from the blog and one winner from Instagram.
Both here on the blog and on Instagram we will be giving away a bundle of our some of our favourite naturally dyed bit and pieces, which is worth around £112! What you will win is shown in the photograph above (but where 2 balls of Twirl appear, each person will only win 1 ball).
To enter here on the blog, please leave a comment with an idea of what you might use your yarn for. To enter on Instagram, you will need to repost our photo from today (19th June) or post one of your own photos, using the hashtag #LoopLovesNaturalDyes, and you will need to be following our account, @looplondonloves.
Both giveaways are closing on Thursday 2nd July at noon UK time, and we will be announcing the winners on Friday 3rd July. We’re running this giveaway for two weeks as it’s such a great one, so you have plenty of time to enter. We know everyone has a lot on their plates at the moment.
As always, you are more than welcome to enter no matter where you live, and you can enter both here and on Instagram. One comment or post per person though please.