Sunday, April 18, 2010

Alpaca Project – a weekend of dyeing

What is the Alpaca Project? Answer HERE.

mordant 3 mordant 2

I mordanted a batch of alpaca yarn in a solution of alum and cream of tartar, and while I was at it I mordanted some silk and merino wool rovings.

alpaca dyed mexican blossom 4 alpaca dyed mexican blossom 3
alpaca dyed mexican blossom 2 alpaca dyed mexican blossom


First I tried dyeing in a boiling pot of  CHOISYA TERNATA aka MEXICAN ORANGE BLOSSOM. I decided to place the alpaca yarn into a laundry bag to protect it from the moving foliage. It came out of the pot a pale green and dried to a creamier pale green.

Next I wanted a pale pink. So I tried red onion skins which I have been collecting whenever I visit a supermarket.

onion skin in stainless steel onion skin water
alpaca dyed red onion skins 2 alpaca dyed red onion skins

Not quite. See that ruby red liquid. It gave me an earthy green which dried to quite a nice colour but definitely not a pale pink. Beetroot is looking good. I thought it may have been the aluminium pot so I repeated the exercise in a stainless steel pot, and yes, it was different – just a little bit darker green.

natural dyeing books

I consulted all my gurus about this but I'm still no wiser. Maybe someone out there in blog land can enlighten me.

While the pots boiled I did some spinning in the beautiful autumn weather. More frothy alpaca yarn.

hand spun alpaca


Benita said...

For a pale pink, try a weak dye of cochineal with alum. The absolute best book on Natural Dyes is J.N. Lyles' "The Art and Craft of Natural Dyeing." If your LYS doesn't carry it, you can get it at

If you have any questions on natural dyeing, I have been doing it for over 10 years and I teach and do lectures on the subject. Also, my website has information or you can simple email me. I love to help!

Leisurely Lesley said...

Thanks for the information Benita. I've read about cochineal but haven't tried it due to lack of access. What I'd really like to know is why the fibre went green even though the dye pot was a definite red.

I will check out the book.

T said...

hi leslie, I have never used onion skins as I am a native vegetation purist...dont ask me why...

I love the colours that you have from you dyes they are wondeful...looking forward to seeing what you weave with them...