Hearts Knit Together #30: Dyeing Yarn with Rabbitbrush

Hearts Knit Together was born out of my struggle to balance my desire to create with my busy life as a mother of four. I am challenging myself to do something creative WITH my children each week and to share that adventure with you on Mondays. I invite you to share your creativity with your children so that we might inspire each other with ideas to help "knit our hearts together." 

If you want to join me, write a blog post about something creative you did with kids and share your link in the comments. No rules really, only that your link is current and something about creating with children. They don't even have to be your own kids. Please remember to link back to The Gauge Wars so that others who may want to join can find it. Pretty simple. Your post can be from any day of the week. It doesn't have to be Monday. Thank you for participating!

While we were camping in Goblin Valley State Park last fall I picked a bunch of yellow flowers. They looked like they would be great for dyeing and were all over the place. I thought at first they were Goldenrod but after an internet search upon our return I identified them as Rabbitbrush. The yellow color that people were getting with the flowers was really pretty so I was excited to try it. But I needed a large pot or crock pot to dye in since using things you cook in to dye with is generally frowned on. I diligently checked the local thrift store everyday for seriously like 3 weeks until I found the perfect crock pot for $5. It was an exciting day as you can imagine. :)

I used Cascade 220 yarn that had been dyed using this gradient method, using kool-aid, and knit into a scarf that turned out to be the most ugly thing I have ever made. It starred in only one photo that was sent to my sister for a good laugh (and then deleted) before I frogged it back and left it for a better project. I was never really happy with how little of the yarn received the yellow color and was waiting to over dye it with something. Rabbitbrush seemed like the best thing. 

The boys were so excited to help with this project. I have had it in my queue for Hearts Knit Together posts since before the holidays but wanted to get all the holiday posts done in a timely manner. So it is not warm enough right now to stand outside in a t-shirt! 

Here are the steps:
  1. The night before I added cool water and a generous amount of alum and cream of tartar as a mordant to get the dye to adhere to the yarn. I didn't measure but I'd guess a tablespoon or two. Here is more information on mordants.
  2. I cooked the yarn in the crockpot for an hour or two. And then let it cool all night. Then rinsed the yarn.
  3. The boys and I plucked off the flowers and cooked them in the crockpot for a few hours, trying to get them to boil for an hour. We removed the flowers from the water. And let the water cool a little. 
  4. We added the yarn and let the yarn cook in the crockpot for a few hours. I tried to let it cook until all the color was gone from the water, like when dyeing with kool-aid, but after several hours there was still dye in the pot and yet the color on the yarn was looking a little "overdone" for lack of a better word. By the time I got around to dyeing with the flowers they were pretty dried. I am not sure if that is the reason my yarn is not as bright a yellow as others I've seen or if it is because I cooked it too long or because it wasn't completely yellow to begin with. This was my first experience natural dyeing, using alum and cream of tartar, so it could be a mixture of things. 
  5. I let the water cool a bit then rinsed the yarn off. Soaked the water out with a towel and laid it out to dry. 
It isn't as bright as I hoped but I actually still really like the color. As soon as my younger daughter saw it she asked me to make her a hat out of it. It is on my to do list. But this is the child who thinks everything is itchy and has only worn hand knits made of Malabrigo yarn so I am a little leery that the Cascade 220 will be "too itchy" for her. We will see. I'll just make the hat big enough to fit me just in case. :)

I used this tutorial at SewSerena as a guide but had to make some adjustments since I was using a crock pot. But it was a fun experiment for the boys and I. 

Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day! It has been fun hearing my 7 year old explaining what Dr. King did for our country to my little boys. "Black children and white children didn't use to be able to hold hands but now they can because of him." We've enjoyed reading Martin's Big Words a few times this week. I can't read or listen to his "I have a dream" speech without getting a little choked up. An inspiring man who continues to encourage us to love and treat each other as equals.

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