Sunday, April 4, 2010

Alpaca Yarn and Natural Dyes

For my birthday, I got two wonderful presents- from my mom: some soft, beautiful skeins of creamy white alpaca wool yarn, and from my husband: a small antique loom! The funny thing is they didn't talk with each other to decide to give me correlating presents. They just both know me really well and know what I like :)

I've decided to try my hand at dying the wool- something I have never done but have always wanted to try. I'm going to dye several colors with natural plant dyes. After reading a couple books from the library, I've found that it's pretty easy to get a lot of yellow, green, and earthy colors, but things like blue and purple are more rare.

Since it's just barely Spring, there's not a lot of plants ready for harvest, but a friend of mine had some frozen elderberry juice (thanks, Debbie!) and it's supposed to give off a blue or purple dye. I thought it would be a good first dye experience.

Elderberries grow wild out here and they are one of my favorite medicinal/edible wild plants. They can be used for so much! My parents have a giant elderberry tree growing right outside of the garden. When I was a kid, my mom would make a delicious elderberry syrup and serve it with her sourdough pancakes. We would also make elderberry jelly, and a few failed attempts at elderberry wine :) The white, delicate flowers are said to be good when fried up in pancake batter, but I've never tried it. Maybe I finally will once they bloom this year. I have had elder flower tea though- it's supposed to be good for colds and induces sweating to help sweat out fevers. The berries are a diuretic and are usually really tangy or even sour sometimes. Usually when eaten raw, they can make one nauseous or can even poison small children if too many are eaten, but when cooked they are not so bad.

I'll start dyeing in a few days- I'll be sure to take lots of pictures and I'll post the process on the blog. Stay tuned!

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