The Art & Science of Natural Dyeing Day 2

Saturday in January in Vermont meant that the mountains were full of skiers and the roads were full of traffic as I headed north early this morning to take in Day 2 of the Art & Science of Natural Dyeing with Jane Woodhouse at Vermont Technical College in Randolph. I mailed some packages at the very quaint, very tiny Post Office and then popped into the classroom in time to catch everyone at the start of draining and rinsing our dyed skeins from yesterday.

It was the liveliest day full of color and of the wonder of natural dyes.  To think that Jane taught us to derive 64 colors from 5 different natural dye materials:  Madder root, Weld leaves and stems, Marigold petals, Cochineal beetles & Indigo.

From lightest blue to deepest plum, cherry, reds, mahogany, oranges, golds, yellows, greens, purples and blue, I learned to respect the ratios and formulas of using the natural dye concentrates.  We were all in the happiest moods from our handmade rainbows.  The discussion and appreciation of using natural materials was central to the theme.  A caring group with a mind on making positive differences, a worthy day.

And fifteen new natural dye friends.


I was so happy to get home to the barn tonight.  Here on the farm while I was away, Iris held off delivering a lamb or two.  Thank you, Iris.  The minidonkeys were left in the paddock with the alpacas and Cotswolds which mixed things up a bit.  As far as I could tell, Kalinka & Silver had a super day.  The sheep might’ve been a bit unnerved.   The alpacas had an opportunity to discover the donkeys up close and personal and I think it was good for them. Better acquainted, everyone is quieter in their stalls tonight.

If you would like to learn more about Jane Woodhouse’s class, “The Art & Science of Natural Dyeing”, send Jane an email at or visit her blog here to read up on mordanting and indigo dyeing.  Jane has been published in Spin-Off magazine, teaches workshops at various Sheep & Wool Festivals, and holds classes throughout the year.

Enjoy the beautiful process and results of the world of natural dyes in the following photos.



Madder solutions in varying strengths


Weld Solutions


Cochineal and Marigold solutions


Cochineal solutions


Cochineal and Madder solutions


Cochineal dyes in different strengths and formulas


Marigold dyes in different strengths and combinations


Janet sets out the dyed cochineal samples


Cochineal gradient beginning


Cochineal, Weld, Marigold, Madder


Not spaghetti, but Marigold & Madder dyed yarn


Weld & co.


Varying shades of marigold


labeling and knitting and checking formulas and sharing


Varying samples of cochineal and madder



Indigo Vat


Varying solutions of Madder & Marigold


Varying solutions of cochineal and weld


Our cooled jars of Marigold


After the jars simmered at 160 degrees for an hour, we took them out of the pots and lined them up in order of formulas


Sophie pulling a madder jar out of the pot


Sophie, Vee & Janet sharing the pot-watching that we spent a lot of time doing


Sophie checking the color


Jane Woodhouse holding a skein of cochineal


Working and sharing


Sixty four colors times 20 labels meant we stayed very busy for quite some time this afternoon


Vee organizes the swatches


The class was so busy labeling, rinsing, organizing


Chantal submerged the indigo skeins for 3 minutes


Rinsing the Indigo overdyed swatches


“Working” the Indigo overdyes through the yarn


Beautiful Indigo overdyes on Weld, Cochineal and Madder


Cochineal & Indigo, Weld, Madder & Weld dyes


Marigold, Madder, Weld Natural Dyes



Rainbow filled room from Natural Dyes


Sixty four colors


colors from Marigold, Madder & Cochineal


colors from Weld & Indigo


Soft indigo swatches


colors from cochineal, madder & indigo


collecting labeled swatches for sample books


gathering swatches


64 colors in 2 days from 5 natural dye materials


we’re all in love


Natural Dye Sampler as a wreath?

7 responses to “The Art & Science of Natural Dyeing Day 2

  1. So great!! What a fantastic class, I wish I was closer.. So many things to learn! My favorite colors are the soft indigos, but they are all so beautiful!

  2. Tammy, such a delight to meet and work with you…the beginnings of a fine friendship, I hope. You have captured the essence of the workshop so perfectly with your gorgeous photos. Thank you for sharing them so generously. xo

    • Karen, thank you for the comment and thank you for dyeing with me this past week! It was just so nice to share the time together! So glad to have made a new friend in you, looking forward to our next adventure in Making!

  3. I’ve been playing with a lot of natural dyes this past month, all of them extracted from whole materials. I’ve done several samples to test the dye baths before going full skein, but the tester piece of yarn is always wildly more saturated and lush. I have a feeling that a small scrap of yarn in a concentrated dye bath just absorbs more dye, so when I add 100g of yarn to that same dye bath, it will make a much lighter shade. I tried to account for this by putting my 4in piece of yarn into a little baby food jar’s amount of dye bath – to try and balance the scales. But my scrap piece still dyed much darker than when I dyed 100g of wool yarn in the full size pot of that same dye bath.

    My question for you is this: how much weight yarn should I “sample test” to give me a more accurate idea of what a larger quantity of yarn would dye up to?

    • Hi Vanessa: Great question. I think that the babyfood sized jar should give you close results but given your experimentation, keep in mind what has happened(less saturated results in the larger quantity) and make adjustments for the color you’re after. I sampled with about 20g of wool at a time to give me a pretty true result. I know that is a bigger sacrifice, but depending on how much wool you are going to be dyeing, it is a better way for me to know if I’m going to be getting the color I’m after. I dye so much yarn that I need to get a good read. I put the 20g in the kettle that I would be using for the entire lot. I hope this is helpful! – Tammy

      • Tammy, That is helpful! I think I’ll ditch the smaller samples for now (or think of it as my “most saturated color achieved” and try out your suggestion of 20g in the kettle. Thanks for taking the time to respond 🙂

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