Dyeing Yarn with Eucalyptus

Eucalyptus is notoriously fast growing, but I was still surprised when the twig I planted in 2020 turned into a lofty tree in the space of a few years. Just recently, we coppiced it and naturally dyeing yarn was an obvious way to use the abundance of leaves. I was very happy to have a chance to experiment! In researching the process, I discovered Eucalyptus dyes don't require mordanting to fix the dye. This made the process a bit simpler, though it is still possible to modify the colour with mordants.

Eucalyptus Tree

I dug out my copy of The Modern Natural Dyer by Kristine Vejar and learnt about the differences between dyeing protein and plant fibers, and the affects mordants can have. This book is fantastic in distinguishing this. Erring on the side of caution I decided to try Alum, which is gentle on the yarn and the planet - but more on that later. 

Dyeing yarn with Eucalyptus

For my first un-mordanted skeins, I made a dye bath with 100g of leaves, equal to the weight of fibre, and brought it to a simmer for a few hours. I left it to cool and simmered again the next day. At this point it was a lovely dark yellow (and smelt amazing!) so I strained the leaves and added a skein of Twist Sock, which had been pre-soaked. - Twist Sock (SW): 80% Merino, 20% Nylon

The result was this dark golden shade (above left). As the bath hadn’t fully exhausted I added another skein of Twist Sock to get the sandy beige (above right).

For the alum mordanted batches, I followed this tutorial from Myra Made Colour. Again using Twist Sock as a ‘control’ skein to compare, and some NSW merino and plant blends, for science. I prepared all the dye baths in the same way as above. 

Rather than completely changing the colour of the dye, alum has the effect of brightening and intensifying the colour. See here the un-mordanted skein of Twist Sock (above left) and mordanted Twist Sock (above right) - a subtle but notable difference.

The remaining three mordanted skeins were used as an exhaust for the other baths I made. They have a slightly more buttery yellow appearance than the sandy skein above but took the dye in a very similar way. (LTR):

  • BFL Boo (SW): 80% BFL, 20% Bamboo
  • Alpaca Linen (NSW): 50% Baby Alpaca, 25% Linen, 25% Silk
  • Fine Merino (NSW): 100% 20.5 micron Merino
  • I absolutely love this bundle of sunshine! And because it took a few rounds to exhaust each bath, I have some additional skeins of Twist Sock to share with you in the shop - and will be dyeing another batch in the summer. There are still so many leaves left. Who knows, I may even try my hand at some other natural dyes!

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