Natural Dye FAQ

Natural Dyes

Natural dyeing is a process of coloring textiles with dyes from plants, insects, fungi, lichen, shellfish and rock minerals. Until the middle of the nineteenth century, all textiles were dyed with naturally, since there was no other source of color. The first synthetic dyes were developed in 1856, but the use of natural dyes continued in industry for another 50 years. (The Art and Science of Natural Dyes; Boutrup and Ellis, 2018).

There is an almost infinite number of natural dyes sources, but many are not light or wash fast. Flora Adora Fibers uses natural dyes that are known to have good to excellent light and wash fastness. I use food grade mordants to bind the dyes to the fibers, to help the dye become permanently fixed to the fibers. That being said, there are also dyes that do not need a mordant to bind to the fiber. These include tannin rich dyes and indigo. 

  • Be prepared for crocking (see more below) Crocking is dye rub-off that can occur from your naturally dyed yarn to your hands while knitting, etc. With natural dyes, this is more likely to occur with indigo, and sometimes darker colors. These are loose molecules of dye material that are working their way out of the yarn due to the warmth and pressure from your hands. When you encounter crocking, be sure to wash your hands after working on your project and avoid wearing white or light colors. After you’re finished, wash and block your finished project in warm water with a bit of soap to help release any additional color. With indigo specifically,  take care for the first several washes not to rub your item against white fabrics.

All the yarns are thoroughly washed and rinsed after dyeing.  However, you may notice slight color loss with initial washes, especially for dark reds, oranges and indigo-this is normal. Indigo dyed yarns may "crock" a bit.  Because indigo is not attached to the fibers with a chemical bond, any sort of repeated pressure can cause the indigo to be pushed out of the fiber and onto your hands, resulting in crocking. Crocking is the release of excess indigo that was not removed during the washing process and occurs with goods that are freshly dyed. After you apply pressure to the yarn, such as during knitting or crocheting, the excess indigo will wear off and stop transferring. (Journeys in Natural Dyeing, Vejar and Rodriguez, 2020). 


Where does Flora Adora Fibers source their yarns?

The original goal had been to source yarns from Ohio and nearby areas. However, the Covid-19 pandemic made it very difficult to connect with local suppliers when all the usual fiber festivals were cancelled.

My yarn bases are a work in progress-as I learn more and discover new sources, the goal is to use more domestically and locally sourced yarns. Right now, my bases are produced in Montana, Canada, Ohio, Wisconsin, Peru and the British Isles. Using less common yarn bases promotes diversity and supports other small businesses.

Caring for your finished projects

Yarns dyed by Flora Adora Fibers are non superwash, so please, do not wash in the washing machine like you might do with superwash yarns! Non superwash yarns will likely felt with that much agitation.

To wash, fill a sink or basin with lukewarm water and add a mild soap. I use Orvus paste, which is unscented and pH neutral. Other neutral detergents include Eucalan & Soak wool washes; Ecover, Palmolive & Dawn Platinum liquids dish soaps. Drop your item into the water, gently squish it a few times to get it wet then let it soak 5-15 min. Drain the water from the sink or basin, refill with water the same temperature as the wash, gently add your item back into the water as before. 

Gently squeeze out excess water, lay the item on a towel, roll up and gently press to remove excess water. Lay flat to dry, reshaping as needed. 


Knitting with hand dyed yarns

Colors of hand dyed yarns can vary greatly from batch to batch, and skein to skein depending on dyeing technique. For any project requiring multiple skeins, alternate skeins every few rows, to get the best results. The next best technique is to alternate skeins for the last 1-3 inches of knitting or crocheting before completely switching to the new skein to make the transition a little less obvious. 


Why non superwash yarns?

Superwash wool yarn takes color beautifully. This is because superwash wool has been chemically treated to remove the scales that cause wool to felt. This treatment alters the fiber's ability to take dye as well as giving it a denser hand and more lustrous appearance. It also contributes to stretching. Since the fibers lack the scales that normally hold everything together, some superwash yarns stretch dramatically with washing and wearing. 

Flora Adora Fibers offers non superwash yarns. Because the scales haven't been removed, these fibers have an increased ability to trap air and tend to be warmer than superwash yarns. They can also be lighter, especially if woolen spun, due to the fibers being less aligned and combed than worsted spun yarns. The scales are the reason a wool sweater, when machine washed in hot, soapy water, ends up a shrunken mess. (The Knitters Book of Yarn, Parkes, 2007). For this reason, hand washing as described above is strongly recommended. Handwashing helps keep the colors bright as well.