Natural Dyeing – A New Adventure

When I knew that I was going to have “in between time” from my last interim job to whatever is in my future, I decided to take a natural dyeing class in my area – this one was with Brook Sinnes and Kira K. Brook is the owner and chief dyer for Sincere Sheep, and Kira Dulaney is a local knitting teacher and designer.

I knew both of them going into the class, so I knew it would be top-notch. Brook taught me to spin on a spindle, and I’ve got on a yarn hop in the East Bay with Kira. Initially, there were two days of dyeing – I signed up for the “cool colors” one, but as you’ll see, there are plenty of warm tones in what we ended up with.

Natural dyeing refers to using plant or animal materials for dyestuff, as opposed to synthetic dyes, which were created beginning in the 19th century.

For our class, we dyed onto Brook’s own Cormo yarn – which she has created for her own company. The sheep are raised in Wyoming, then it is spun (oops, I forget), and then comes to her house/dyeing studio in Napa, CA. She had already mordanted the yarn we used (the mordant makes the dye stick to the fiber and not wash out).

Her operation is done out of her backyard patio, given that it is California and the weather will mostly work.

We had different yarns prepared so we could see the effects of overdyeing – which is one of the ways to get a variety of colors with just a few dyes. Our yarns were dyed with saxon blue (a pretty caribbean blue), and two different intensities of indigo (blue jeans).

Brooke had us dye with Weld (yellow), Madder (an orange red), Marigolds (golden yellow) and Logwood (purple), and except for the marigolds:


we used purchased extracts that were weighed and measured into the pots (weld below):


By the time we finished, we had 14 mini-skeins in a variety of shades, with a color chart to match. To finish the yarn, I hung it up to dry at my cousin’s house,


and today I am rinsing the yarn again to get out any remaining dye, and drying on my balcony (it’s only a bit of sun, so I think I’ll be fine).


I would recommend this class as Brooke is really good at demystifying how the dye process works for natural dyes, and helps you figure out if you’d like to try it at home. I think I will try my hand at some yarn and fiber dyeing.

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