One of the first things I do when I go home to Finland in the summer is set up my dyepot. My dad very generously lets me take over his barbeque hut for my experiments. It’s an old granary building, that my parents have converted to a dining area. I love dyeing yarn at home as my parents live in the countryside with and abundance of plants and a lake to get water from. This summer I wanted to dye a lot of green. This all came from my friend Anna’s request to have an odd green for a project we were planning and that kept playing in my mind. Green is an elusive colour and even though ever present in nature, it is not so common from dye plants. Usually greens are achieved by overdyeing yellowy shades with indigo or modifying these with iron or copper.
These nettle skeins were dyed in July in Finland. Nettle is such a versatile plant! It’s great in cooking and tea, can be spun into fibre and dyed with. I never seem to carry gloves with me when I go to pick some and always get stung like crazy. I used alum mordanted yarn, simmered the plant for an hour and then added the yarn for another hour. This is the method I used with all the plants in this post. I wasn’t organized enough to measure Ph. A mistake I am definitely going to rectify next summer so I can compare the lake water with London water. With nettles, I dyed the yarn in stages and then created an iron bath and dipped each skein in for 5 minutes. Nettle dyed skeins have a tendency to turn a greyish green after a while, which is still a beautiful colour. Nettles are one of the only edible plants I like to dye with.
One of my favourite summer plants to dye with is Lupin leaves. Its actually one of my favourite plants alltogether. I have so many memories of picking them for my grandma, from roadsides on our way to the summerhouse. They are a weed and have spread everywhere in Finland. My mum doesnt let me bring the blooms anywhere near her garden as she thinks they will take over, even from my dyepot. Luckily she has nothing to worry about as I dont dye with the flowers, just the leaves. The flowers can be used for dyeing and in cool temperatures, they give out gorgeous blues and mint greens. But these colours fade easily into greys and I’d much rather look at their blooms in nature. Lupin leaves give gorgeous almost neon greens when used early in the year before blooming. These greens are also fairly colourfast.
Common reed was a new dye plant to me this summer. The lake line is full of them and as my luck would have it, this year my dad bought himself a paddle board. So off I went in my bathing suit, paddling away amongst the reeds, picking the heads for the dye pot. I really wish someone had taken a picture of me..the lengths you for dye material. After dyeing I let the yarn sit in the bath until the next morning for the most fantastic bright green. I have recently seen Louise from South Down Yarns achieving a luminicent green with reeds and copper in the autumn and I’d love to try this also if I can get my hands on some in London.
Earlier this year I came across mugwort as a dye plant on my trip to Denmark where I spent a weekend at a dyeing course with Guld-dk (one of the most amazing things ever!) I am ridiculously allergic to mugwort so in between sneezes I picked a bunch for the dye pot. I only used the flowerheads, before blooming for light greens. Later in the summer I dyed another bath of mugwort that had already flowered and it turned a more of a yellowy colour. Mugwort contains thujone and the plant has been used for medicinal purposes. The thujone can be an irritant and I would definitely recommend dyeing in a well ventilated area as the smell from the plant when simmered is very unpleasant!
I wanted to write about these lovely greens as I found very little information about mugwort and lupin leaves myself. I love finding new plants to dye with! And I feel quite lucky to have two countries and varied their plant life in my reach.