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Experiments With Nettle Dye, Take Two

Experiments with Nettle Dye, Take Two

stinging nettle plant dye, natural dye, balls of yarn in a coiled pine needle basket

Last year I posted a recipe for making dye with Stinging Nettles. to check out that post click here.  The dye bath from last year turned out to be a lovely, yet light color. I had harvested in the late spring once the nettles were about 16 inches tall. It was pretty, but I wanted to see if I could achieve a darker color this year. Knowing that the color is coming straight out of the leaves I decided to harvest earlier in the season, when the little baby nettle plants were only a couple inches high and were darker in color, which is a mechanism they have to protect against the cold. Harvesting when they were smaller and darker turned out to be the key! My colors were much deeper and richer. Luckily I have a huge patch of nettles by my house so I could harvest plenty and still have a thriving abundant patch remaining.

Here are my most notable observations:

1.  The dye baths that were 3:1 ratio and cooked in either a copper or an iron pot turned out the darkest.

2. A 3:1 ratio was significantly better than a 1:1 when using alum mordanted wool.

3. Letting it soak for 24 hours after cooking made a difference.

4. Harvesting nettles when the are small and darker in color is important for getting darker colors.

nettle dye, natural dyes, sample pieces, stinging nettle plant dye

From left to right: 1:1 ratio of nettles to wool, mordanted in alum; 2:1 ratio of nettles to wool, mordanted in alum; 3:1 ratio of nettles to wool, mordanted in alum; 3:1 ratio of nettles to wool, mordanted in alum and let to soak for 72 hours; 3:1 ratio of nettles to wool cooked in a copper pot; 3:1 ratio of nettles to wool, cooked in an iron pot.

stinging nettle dye, plant dyes, natural dyes, skeins of yarn


stinging nettle dye, plant dye, natural dyes, coiled pine needle basket, close up of yarn

Photo Sep 15, 3 39 39 PM copy Photo Sep 15, 3 39 46 PM copy

Please post any results or thoughts you have on dyeing with nettles. I’m thrilled and excited to have gotten such beautiful results and can’t wait to do another batch next year… maybe I’ll see what happens if I try it on silk…

This Post Has 8 Comments
  1. great colors. I will try this come spring when they are really green. Last year i made pesto with the early nettles. nettles, garlic water and oil in the blender. Better then pesto! Thank you for all your posts on nettles. very inspiring!

  2. Great post! I’m trying nettle dye for the first time, and wonder what the lightfastness will be like. Did your colors fade quickly?

  3. Great post! I’m doing nettle dyeing for the first time, and wonder what the lightfastness will be like. Did your colors fade quickly?

  4. I want to dye 100 gram skein of wool. What was your recipe for the mordant. Did you mordant before or after? Can you say how to measure with a measuring cup (not weighing it as I don’t have a scale)

    I am dyeing wool for a museum project using natural plants from an historic property. What an adventure!

    1. Antique shops and flea markets are your best bets! They aren’t cheap though. I ended up using a copper kettle, which was a bit awkward but did the trick for small batches

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