Natural DyesColor Like No Other
|Betty Barry's ombré yarns in stunning naturally-dyed colors. Photos courtesy of Betty Barry.|
Ombré at work! Shawl knitted with Betty's hand-dyed yarns.
|Dye Day sponsored by Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation. Betty shown center front.|
The fiber scene, like any thriving community, is ever-evolving. Tools, techniques, and fibers come in and out of popularity. Many of us read magazines and join online groups to keep pace with the many ways in which our ancient crafts are made constantly fresh and new.
Some skills, however, remain a constant part of our local textile communities through the enthusiasm of artisans and their willingness to share their knowledge. I'm always excited to see natural dyeing workshops and Dye Day events on guild calendars.
A few weeks ago, Betty Barry of Fort Wayne, Indiana, shared some pictures of her newest fiber adventure—ombré yarns using natural dyes. (Ombré colors shift very slowly from one to the next.) She said, "I picked up a cake of ombré acid-dyed yarn in the Summer of 2014 at a fiber show and decided it would be interesting to do that with natural dyes." It took some experimenting before Betty was happy with her product, but by the time she was ready to vend at the Salomon Farm Park's Fiber Arts Celebration, she was well-stocked with gorgeous yarns. Perhaps she will try spinning fibers next? Betty and her Little Shop of Spinning are well known throughout the region. She participates in fiber arts demonstrations and has helped to grow her local guild, the Fort Wayne Flax and Fleecers Spinning Guild, for many years. She tells us a bit about her journey with natural dyes:
"I have been working with natural dyes around twenty-five years. My first experiences with natural dyeing came from Dye Days with my local guild. The early members of the guild were quite particular about natural dyeing techniques, so I learned to be conscientious about methods and procedures. I completed four levels of the Master of Spinning Program at Georgian College, Owen Sound, Ontario, Canada from 1991‒1993, where participants spent half of their class time with natural dyeing techniques. The program was terminated before I could complete my fifth level and project.
"I primarily did natural dyeing for my own personal use for many years, but decided about three years ago I would dye skeins of yarn with natural dyes to have in my shop. I began dyeing with DK-weight wool and now have sock weight skeins, as well.
"I would suggest if someone wanted to begin dyeing with natural dyes to use sources that do not require a mordant, such as turmeric, tea, or walnut. Onion skins with an alum mordant is also a good beginning dye bath as it is readily available and gives positive results. Some sources indicate onion skins can be used without a mordant."
Are you interested in learning more about natural dyeing but don't have a Dye Day event within reach? Check out Dagmar Klos' DVDs. Dagmar is incredibly knowledgeable about the wonderful world of natural dyes, and a lovely person to top it off-my favorite kind of instructor!