When I introduced this series of blog posts exploring my adventures in dyeing, I pledged to share with you my mistakes as well as my successes on the basis that we can learn from each others’ mistakes as well as our own.
It’s therefore quite ironic that it was just before the launch of the ‘new look’ Ravlery which meant that I could no longer use the site, that I discovered the Natural Dyeing Ravelry group.
In the group there was a thread on dyeing with orange day lilies, hemerocallis.
The original poster in that thread was in the US where it seems orange day lilies grow ‘wild’, or at least on roadsides and wasteland – how amazing is that! Here they need a little more active encouragement and we just have a couple of small ‘clumps’ in the garden.
I looked a bit further and found quite a few references/statements that suggested that day lilies could be used as a dye material but few concrete examples. I’m a little suspicious of flower/petal dyes. Often flowers that look like they have a strong pigment/dye potential make ineffective dyes. However, I did find:
I was intrigued but also aware of how few day lillies we have and how quickly they go over. It was pretty much a now or wait til next year situation. So I decided to have a go with a pretty low stakes approach.
One morning when making tea I collected up the dried fallen flowers, put 4g into a jam jar, and poured some of the boiling water left in the kettle onto the flowers.
The reaction was amazing, almost immediately the colour started swirling and infusing into the water.
I left it to steep for about 5 hours outside on a hot sunny day.
I then put a 10g mini-skein of alum mordanted superwash wool into a jar, decanted off the deep pink dye liquid and poured it into the jar with the wool.
I then poured boiling water over the flowers in the original jar as before and left them to steep for a day then poured them in with the wool too.
I left it for a day and there was little uptake of the dye, the yarn had turned a pale fawn colour but most of the colour remained in the liquid.
Recalling the Ravelry discussion of whether raising/lowering the pH would make a difference I thought I remembered the conclusion as being that making it more acid, lowering the pH would take one to the orange side of the spectrum while increasing it would go to the green side.
I add a teaspoon of vinegar shook up the jar and left for a few days hoping something would happen. It didn’t.
So I washed rinsed and dried the yarn.
Disappointed I wondered if I’d got it wrong and increasing the pH would produce an orange so I had another go. This time I:
Put 4g into a jam jar, and poured boiling water onto the flowers and left it to steep overnight.
The next day I decanted the liquid into another jar and added a 10g mini skein of alum mordanted superwash wool and left if in the sun for a day and overnight. I poured boiling water over the flowers in the original jar and left them overnight too.
In the morning, the yarn was looking familiarly fawn so I removed it from the jar, added in the extra dye from the second steeping and topped it up again. Then I added half a teaspoon of household ammonia and the effect was instantaneous. The dye changed from deep orange to bottle green.
I added the yarn and left it for 2 days. I was entranced by it and just had to keep looking at as it went from acid yellow to a fabulous green.
Then I rinsed it and dried it. I love it.
I loved the green so much that it just increased my disappointment at the fawn.
So I topped up the dye in the jar with a little of the liquid from the third steeping of the flowers which only had minimal colour and added a couple extra drops of ammonia and then the yarn.
It began to change colour, but slowly so I left it for 24 hours, by which point it too had changed to a nice green, slightly more subdued from being dyed over the fawn, but still really nice.
I had such low expectations for this experiment and oh how they were exceeded. I have a few more dried fallen lily flowers and now that our lilies are over for the year, they have become very precious.
Have you ever gone into something with similarly low expectations and come away totally bowled over? If so, I’d love to hear about it.
until next time,