Natural Dyes – Johnson grass seed heads

I found some dark red grass seed heads beside the road on a drive home from work the other day. The deep red/maroon colour was particularly striking against the green of the other grasses. I stopped and harvested a handful of them. I managed to identify them later as Johnson grass, which is apparently a weed from the USA.

I bought the heads home and put them straight into the dye pot. I recently saw a YouTube video about natural dyes where the host uses paint strainer bags to keep the dye material together and makes the straining of the dye so much easier (just lift out the bag and the dye is ready to go). I bought a pack of these bags from Bunnings and tried them out in this project.

You can see the colour of the dye bath in this photo.

The bags work really well and are easy to wash out once the dye bath is ready. This is a really exciting discovery for me, I will be using them for every dye pot in the future.

I added the peels from a pomegranate to the dye bath to act as a mordant for the dye (as I didn’t think it would be very successful without mordant). The dye bath was heated to a simmer (not a boil) for about an hour and then left to soak until the next day. I rinsed the yarn out and hung it to dry.

The result? Another adventure into 50 shades of beige. But either the pomegranate or the grass heads have given the yarn (some of my homespun yarn from our sheep Eli) a sheen. This shine proved impossible to capture in a photo, but it is lovely. I think I will have to use this dyebath as an additive to other dyes and see if it gives a glow to other colours.

My search for local colour continues…

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