Cold In Summer: A Natural Dyeing Book, A Skein of Wool…

 tolkien Before you get all excited, no. My mother-earth skills have not progressed to natural dyeing. Yet. But maybe soon. Keep reading.

 Leaving Rivendell has been sad. And cold. Endless trekking through empty wastelands and mountains has made me feel cold, despite the summer heat. There’s a scene where everyone is huddled around a meager fire, miserable as anything, wondering how they will get down the mountain through the enormous snow drifts. Boromir and Aragorn decide the play the role of bulldozers, and start to forge a path through the snow.

 Legolas is obnoxiously cheerful at this point. As an elf, the snow hasn’t really bothered him. He’s wearing shoes while everyone else is shaking in their boots. He hops on top of the snow and shoots by the men struggling through the snow, assuring them that he is going to fetch the sun. Thanks, a lot, you fancy ponce! is what I imagine Boromir thought!

 However, it has turned my mind back to wool. Lately I’ve been working with sock yarn, cotton, laceweight and pretty much anything other than heavy wool. It hasn’t been intentional, but that’s how it’s worked out. I have a skein of Cascade Ecological wool—which I have fallen out of love with—and one remaining skein of Marr Haven wool.

Add to this potent mixture a little booklet that I picked up, along with those sock pamphlets I blogged about. I saw it in gardening and I snatched it up. “Natural Plant Dyeing: A Handbook,” was a popular little anthology put together by the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and it is really a vintage treasure, especially considering the renewed interest in everything natural and organic.

I couldn’t possibly list all the articles in this slim booklet, which range from preparing sheep fleece to dyeing to the practical uses for lichen! So I just took a picture.

  One of my favorite articles is called, “Sleepy Hollow Restoration Shawls: An Adventure in Matching Colors,” by Sylvia Thorne. Since this is a review, I think I can legitimately include a short excerpt from the article!

“At 17th century Philipsburg, Upper Mills in North Tarrytown, New York and at Van Cortlandt Manor in nearby Croton-on-Hudson, authenticity is the name of the game. When Sleepy Hollow Restorations wanted a dozen shawls to complement costumes worn by hostesses at these historic landmarks, handspun yarns had to be dyed with natural dyes.”

“…The only problem in matching a very dark brown by using dried sumac berries mordanted with copper sulfate was that the 11 gallon vessel sprung a leak and dyed the floor too!”

“….The indigo shawls presented the most difficulty. A Norwegian recipe called Olium was used…Another problem arose because the fleece selected had come from sheep grazed on an island off the Maine coast, which is well known for its salt spray and fog. The indigo refused to penetrate all fibers equally and left a few patches of white. After carding the fleece, the color was slightly muted. But it was still an attractive unmistakable indigo.”

These are just some of the difficulties in the article, but it ends on a charmingly optimistic note!

Obviously, exact color matches from different dye lots are never quite attainable. But with determination and a little ingenuity, it is possible to come satisfyingly close!”

 But somehow, despite this article, I remain undiscouraged. This pamphlet informs me that the best times to gather dyestuffs is in late summer and autumn.

 Think I should try it?


July 3, 2008. Tags: , , . Knittin' Porn, Tolkien Thursdays.


  1. Aunt Kathy replied:

    Yeah I think you’ll try it. Question is when???

  2. jinniver replied:

    Heck, yeah. Why not? 🙂

  3. Dava replied:

    Why yes! But if you wear a hat like that, we may have to kill you.

  4. Sharah replied:

    be warned… pretty pink things probably wont’ give you pretty pink colors. My friend and I tried to use these gorgeous leaves we found in autumn, and we got this sad brown color 😦 it was so disappointing! But i didn’t do the research for it… she did.

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