The past few weeks have been full of fiber dyeing, which has been a lovely way to get back on my feet after an illness and take advantage of the season. One of the most successful and lovely endeavors was dyeing with marigold blossoms on alum mordanted yarn. We'll talk about mordants later, but now onto the dye.
We are talking straight up, classic, sunny cottage garden marigolds here (Tagetes erecta, T. patula, and hybrids). According to my research, the fernlike leaves make a fine yellow dye as well, but for this experiment I went with only the blossoms, green sepals attached. I collected a whopping 12 oz of flower heads, mostly bright yellows and clear oranges, and used them fresh.
I dyed 8.5 oz of wool with the 12 oz of flower heads (that's 1.4 oz fresh marigold per 1 oz of wool), and could have easily dyed successive exhaust batches of a paler color, had I wanted to. Based on this experience, for a nice, rich, saturated orange-yellow color, I would suggest 1.5-2.0 oz of marigold per oz of wool, but less than this should provide sufficient color.
Dye liquor after first batch of wool
I made my dye bath by covering the fresh flowers with water and bringing to a simmer for 30 minutes. I strained the liquid, and saved the marigold heads for an exhaust dye bath. I then added 1.5 oz of carded wool, previously treated with an alum mordant and brought to a low simmer for 25-30 minutes. This gave me an incredible saffron-like hue. Unlike many other natural dyes that I've used, I found this to be quite a clear color and not very muddy or brown.
Dyed rolags. The color in real life is richer and clearer.
Next I added 2 skeins of my handspun 2-ply wool yarn. The total weight was 5.5 oz. I let these simmer for 30 minutes, and found that although the color was more yellow than orange, it was still a rich and clear hue.
While this was happening, I returned the used marigold heads to a separate dye bath, covered with water, and simmered for about a half a hour. I added this exhaust dye liquor to original dye bath after removing the two skeins, and put in my final skein (1.5 oz) for an overnight soak. In the morning I removed it and found that the color was a little more greenish brown than the others. I don't know if this was due to the second soaking of marigolds, the lower levels of orange and yellow pigment, or the long soak time. Still a pleasant color.
All of the wool got a good wash with a touch of dish soap until the water ran clear. I squeezed it out gently and set to dry. Overall, I'm very happy with the results! I will definitely repeat this next year and devote a large bit of my garden to marigolds. I'll also test out batches with single varieties.
From the left: undyed, 2nd exhaust, 2 skeins of 1st exhaust
From the top: undyed, hope red sunflower, 1st batch marigold