Thursday, October 1, 2015

Tea Party: Dyeing Wool with Tea

Well, I managed to spin 50g of my lovely alpaca/merino very quickly. Everything was plyed before breakfast yesterday. That's when the fun began. The evening before, while the singles were resting (to set the twist), I did some research on the subject of dyeing with tea.

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Why? I like the idea of a natural dye product. There's something about the soft, natural colours that has tremendous appeal. Secondly, tea is what is known as a "substantive" dye. The tannins in it cause it to bond to the yarn without the need for a mordent, such as vinegar or other more toxic additions.
Here's how I proceeded:
1. I measured the weight of my spun and plyed yarn, before washing. FYI, a Cuisinart kitchen scale is one of the most useful tools a spinner/knitter can have.
2. I measured out an equal weight of tea. 50g of tea is quite a bit of tea, so I chose to use an inexpensive quality, namely, Red Rose, available everywhere in Canada.

This worked out to about 14 tea bags. I could have used loose leaf tea, but this was what I had on hand.
3. I filled a large pot with water and the tea bags, brought the whole thing to the boil, then turned down the heat, covered the pot, and simmered the concoction for one hour.
4. While the dye pot was brewing, I washed my spun yarn in a bit of Sunlight dish soap and water, then rinsed it and left it to soak in warm water once it was clean.
5. At the end of its hour of simmering, the dye pot mixture was potent. The tea bags had disintegrated and the tea leaves had formed a fine sludge. I strained the whole thing into a large bowl, washed out the pot, then returned the dye mixture back to the pot. I let it cool until it was just warm--about an hour.
6. Next came the moment of excitement. I lowered the skeined yarn, loosely tied in 3 spots, into the dye pot. I brought the whole thing back up to the boil (no sudden temperature changes for wool, remember!), partially covered it, and let it simmer very slightly for another hour.
7. At the end of the hour, I turned the heat off, removed the cover, and allowed everything to cool down to warm--another hour. THIS IS NOT A QUICK PROCESS. Note: when dyeing with tea, the dye mixture does not clear when the dyeing is done, but remains quite dark.
8. Finally, I removed the yarn, washed it again, and rinsed it several times to get out all the excess dye. I really love the colour.

This morning the wool is dry, and I'm ready to launch into the knitting portion of this little adventure.

Along the way, I discovered some blogs I really loved, especially The Bluebird's Diary from Finland.
You really must see this amazingly lovely purple coat!
Our mild September weather is gone. The furnace has kicked on for the first time this season. It is the end of warm, I fear. Maybe I need to knit a coat too...


  1. So I just want you to know I am officially obsessed with this will probably drive me to create my own pattern...unless of course you recreate it first!,,

    1. I'm obsessed too. I kept thinking about it all yesterday evening! I'm trying to find out what yarn she used.

  2. Please share if you find out! Perhaps Malabrigo Mecha would produce a similar result...

  3. I don't think Mecha has enough loft. I was thinking more along the lines of Lang's Mille Colori. The yarn looks airy and lightly spun. It's also possible that she used two yarns held together.

  4. Hmmm...the colors aren't quite right for Mille colore...but if she mixed it with something else....just LOVE that one slouchy pocket:-)