I live in Cumbria, and smell sheep as I leave my house, so getting wool for felting from New Zealand sheep just seemed wrong. wanted to be creating with wool found locally, and being an environmentalist, I wanted to use dyes that would cause less damage to the environment, so I have chosen to us plant dyes, and my aim is that I will be producing felting wool, and yarn, as well as felted animals from locally raised sheep wool, using dyes from a Cumbrian garden.
I was given some fleece to work with by a good friend, as I have never dealt with a fleece before, this has been an exciting, and slightly chaotic journey. My house has been taken over with bits of wool, either drying or neatly piled in colour groups waiting for the next stage of the process.
Firstly I washed the rather smelly fleece, and I have only had to discard about 12 inch/ 30cm square piece that was at the back end. Then I began to scour my cupboards and garden for goodies to dye with. At one point my dining room table had 10 Kilner, and coffee jars on it with strange tea like substances in them. I don't want to heat my fleece too much, and I don't want to use any scary chemicals, so I have decided to use natural salt, and lemon juice to fix the dyes. I also need to use them as cold water dyes, which means the colours are going to be very pale.
I have found the best dye to be Turmeric, which produces a good dye with cold water, an d the fleece needs little or no encouragement to take it, producing a lovely sunny Yellow colour (sorry Amy). My next favourite dye is Red Cabbage, every time I've used it I've got a different colour, the first experiment using a very small quantity of wool produce a duck egg blue, the next an intense white, that would be great fun under UV lights, the last one gave me a very subtle purple colour, and I hope when spun will be very pretty. I have tried various others, I'm not keen on berries, they take a lot of work, and give poor results, maybe blackberries will be better in the Autumn, but Raspberries, Strawberries, and Blueberries are much better eaten. Red onion skin was disappointing, but has given me a subtle pink, that might prove useful long term. I am however struggling to get green, I knew when I started this green was tricky, but I didn't realise to what extent. My best results are from Spinach, but the best I can achieve is a yellow/green.
I will continue with these experiments and up date you on my progress, in the mean time, anyone who is going to the mothers Day fair this Sunday in Whitehaven, will have the opportunity to buy some of this wool spun, and Eggbert and friends will be on sale too.