When I took the natural dye class this spring, taught by Sylvia De Mar through The Art League of Alexandria over the course of 3 Sundays, Sylvia asked us to gather dandelions and bring them in for our last class. She asked for the whole plant – flowers, leaves, stems, roots. I know that dandelions are actually useful in certain circumstances; my first landlords in NJ eagerly awaited spring so they could have dandelion greens. The grandmother of one of my best friends when I was growing up also eagerly awaited spring dandelions and made dandelion wine. Nota bene: it takes a whole heck of a lot of dandelion petals (petals only!) to make wine; here are more recipes than you can shake a stick at.
I diligently uprooted as many dandelions (Taraxacum officinale) as I could find, put them in a ziplock bag, and tossed them in the freezer. Of course, I forgot to take them to our last class. And of course, they’ve waited patiently for me along with other oddities in my freezer, like marigold petals that I’m collecting (copycatting off of hookedferret/silverdragn for another dye pot). I pulled them out today and after defrosting and rinsing them (note to self: rinse the dirt off before freezing them next time), separated the roots from everything else. I remember Sylvia telling us the roots give a different color.
Which brings me to the sturdiness of my methods so far. I should be using dye recipes. And I should be using raw materials in proportion to my wool (yarn or roving or fleece), which means weighing everything. If I were to get really technical, I would test the pH of my water and of my dye baths and manipulate them with vinegar or ammonia. At least I’m dying with several different pre-mordanted samples.
I could’ve used dandelion root tea! Or maybe I could taste-test some of the dye bath! Or maybe not. I’ll keep this option in mind for the winter and maybe try other herbal teas.
What I Did
I picked dandelion stems & roots (when I could get them out of the ground) in April and froze them until now, August. I should’ve cleaned them & separated all of the non-dandelion materials (crabgrass, oak leaves, stems, pine bark mulch) before freezing, but did get most of that stuff out. I put the stems, leaves, and flowers (308g) in one pot, and the roots only (68g) in another pot, both with enough tap water to let the materials swish around freely. I brought both to a boil and simmered for about an hour. My pre-mordanted samples soaked in rainwater (it was handy) during that cooking process. Here it is in pictures, with results:
Leaves and roots in the pot with water but no cooking time.
Yup – the yarn dyed with the leaves, flowers, and stems turned yellowish and got a little richer in color.
I’m tempted to try this again with fresh, mid-summer dandelions to see if there is any difference in the results.