Solar Dyeing - Super Slow Fashion!

Back in summer I had a large patch of Calendula in my garden, and the flowers looked so vibrant that I thought they would work as a dyestuff! I couldn't find any specific information online about dyeing with calendula, but from Googling the Latin name - Calendula Officionalis - I discovered it is also known as Pot Marigold, which Shelly R. states that "the yarn picks up the yellow/gold tones of the flowers" (2012, online) when dyed.

My method was taken from a PDF available from the Journal of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers website. This journal is proving to be an excellent resource and I am so pleased to find it in the university library! The dry fibre (British Wool from Uppingham Yarns) and petals from the Calendula flowers were added to a Kilner jar, followed by a cooled alum mordant solution. I sealed the jar and left it on a sunny windowsill to cook!

Burns, R. (2017)  Solar Dyeing.  (Own Collection)

Burns, R. (2017) Solar Dyeing. (Own Collection)

The jar got forgotten for about 3 months, and so I thought I would have a reasonable colour by this point. On taking the yarn out of the jar, I had achieved a pale yellow colour, which wasn't particularly exciting, given the length of time it had spent brewing...

It was really hard to get all of the petals off once the yarn had tried, so I gave up and made it a feature. When I knitted the yarn a fair few came off in the process, but some remained and I think it adds a nice bit of character - telling the story of how it came to be that colour. Knitted the yarn has a subtle fluro yellow stripe to it, which you can sort of see in the swatch below.

Burns, R. (2017)  Calendula Yarn.  (Own Collection)

Burns, R. (2017) Calendula Yarn. (Own Collection)

This was one of my first ever dye experiments, and so looking back I know where I could improve: I don't think I used enough dyestuff compared to the weight of the yarn, I didn't rotate the fibres in the jar often enough, and I don't think the British Summer weather is quite good enough to use this technique!

It is however, an energy free way of dyeing yarn, and so it should be considered as an option based on it's sustainability credentials.