Natural Dyeing with Woad

Here is a photo journal of my first attempts at dyeing yarn with woad.

Meet some local alpacas! I was lucky to get some alpaca fibre/hair from ‘Guido’ the white one in the pic above. He lives in a field near to the shop and the fibre/hair was spun at the East Anglia Alpaca Mill near Norwich. So very local yarn in all senses which I’m thrilled with.

The other yarn is commercial undyed yarn and is 100% BFL Superwash. This is still produced in England, just doesn’t have the detailed traceability.

Firstly the wool is scoured. Placed in water to soak so the fibres open up ready for dyeing.

The dye vat is then prepared whilst the wool was soaking. I was using a chemical vat rather than a traditional fermentation vat. A chemical is used to take out the oxygen so the magic can happen

The yarn sits in the vat for 8 mins. When it is removed is when the magic happens. It comes out yellowey green and on contact with the air, it turns to blue in front of your eyes! What blue it turns too at the moment is a bit hit and miss for me. I’ve had some light blues and some lovely denim blues. That’s the magic of dyeing with woad – you never know!

The hanks are then left to air for a few hours. On a sunny day like today it didn’t take long to dry completely hanging on the line. The yarn is then rinsed until the water becomes clear – which didn’t take long at all.

100% Alpaca from Guido – consistent light blues with a few denim streaks

Due to the nature of woad, the wool doesn’t need to be mordanted or ‘fixed’. It’s ready to be used. Also, unlike other ‘Indigo’ it shouldn’t crock (rub off onto your hands whilst knitting). What it will do, which is the charm of Woad and indigo, is it will fade with wear. Just like your jeans, you’ll get different colours over the years with use.

It was so exciting to do and yes, a little frustration when you repeat procedures exactly and a different blue shade comes out, but that’s the charm of natural hand dyeing yarn rather than using commercial acid dyes. I will have a few more attempts to build up my skill and expertise and then I’ll be ready to sell it in the shop!

If you want to hear and see more of this procedure then watch it on you tube.

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