How to Dye and Spin Yarn

Dyeing and spinning

Welcome Karen Boyce to Knitting Utopia. I'm looking forward to you sharing your expert knowledge on dyeing and spinning your own yarns.


Hi! My name is Karen Boyce. I’m going to be doing some guest spots on Marianne’s blog, so I’ll start by telling you a bit about myself, my dyeing and spinning and my projects.

Dyed locks

Dyed locks

I knit and crochet and have been doing so for long enough to not remember how long! I spin and dye fleeces as well as making the odd rug on my peg loom.

I buy all my fleeces from small holdings and pet owners that use organic methods, as keeping things ‘natural’ and chemical free is close to my heart, as is the way the animals are kept. If an animal is well loved and well cared for it shows in their fleece!

I have been using the same suppliers year on year and I am always on the look out for those who keep sheep on the rare breed list as bringing back these rare breeds is something that I am passionate about.

Dandelion Dye Bath
Dandelion Dye Bath

Living in an old farm house on the edge of the moors and wetlands in Somerset, I am fortunate that, as well as local suppliers for my fleeces, I have an abundance of natural, organic materials which I can forage from the beautiful countryside that surrounds the farm.

I grow many plants in my dye garden that are used for dyes, as well as being bee and butterfly friendly! We will talk more about those individual plants and flowers as we go along.

Sometimes I will use commercial acid dyes for commissions for those wanting the very strong and vibrant colours.

The fun thing about the natural dyes is that you never quite know what is going to come out!

If you buy a commercial dye that says red you know you will get red. If you go out foraging and throw the material in the dye bath and add your fibre you never quite know what colour you will end up with and the results are often surprising.

Leicester Longwool Trio

Leicester Longwool Trio

It's a treat to be dyeing these gorgeous Leicester Longwool Locks [one of those on the rare breed list] with summer materials.

The yellows were produced from the flowers from dandelions and the peachy pink colour from the root would you believe?! You can use all parts of the plant including the flowers, leaves, stems and roots and each part will give you a different colour or shade of that colour.

Each dye bath can be used up to 3 times and each time you will get a slightly lighter shade of the 1st colour until the dye has become exhausted.

It is important with most natural dye materials to use a mordant on the fibre before you dye it.

The word mordant comes from the French verb mordre, which means to bite, thus giving the colour something to fix onto. Not all materials need a mordant and some materials are also used as a mordant, but again this is something we will talk about more another time.

Hope you have enjoyed my first guest blog. Will see you all soon.


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