Natural Dyeing – Poinsettia Leaves


I was looking at a thread in the Ravelry Plants To Dye For group and someone asked if you could dye wool with poinsettia leaves.  There was further discussion about whether poinsettias were poisonous and it appeared, despite India Flint’s admonitions against it, that it was not poisonous to humans and that the issue was that the sap was irritating to the skin.  Nevertheless, it was said to have been used as a dye by the Aztecs so why not give it a shot?  It was certainly the week to get cheap poinsettias so off to the store I went and came home with 8 2-3 gallon containers of poinsettias.

Markus, Jesse and I donned our rubber gloves and started pulling off all of the red and salmon colored poinsettia leaves and dumping them in a bag.

Now this was my first foray into naturally dyeing wool so understand that we are at the very start of the learning curve, so don’t necessarily think that I had a clue about what I was doing here.  I told everyone one that I was experimenting.  (Chris said that I was winging it, but I explained that no – I was experimenting – which sounded much more scientific than winging it did.  ;))

See, the problem is that each of my books was telling me slightly different things to do so while I had the general procedure in my head okay, the nuances were (and are still) definitely being developed throughout this process.

The first thing that had to be done was that the yarn had to be mordanted – which means that it had to “cook” in hot water that contained alum and cream of tartar.

The mordant basically allows the dye in the plants to adhere to the wool.  As this was my first foray into dyeing wool, I used my 100% merino wool fingering weight base yarn as it was the least expensive to lose if this whole thing was a bust.

Chip went downstairs with my bag of poinsettia leaves and chopped them up.  We had 12 ozs of leaves from the plants we brought home.  I read that the average plant to yarn (by weight) ratio is four to one, which meant I should be able to dye one of the 3.5 oz skeins of the merino okay with 12 ozs. of leaves.  So I headed onto preparing the dye.

We took the chopped leaves and put them in a pot of water and started boiling.

Interesting, in that after we finished boiling them, there really was no color in the leaves and the water was a clear deep burgundy red – maybe this was going to work.

Next we added a skein of the mordanted yarn to the dye.

Well, this looked promising.

But when we lifted the yarn out of the pot, it looked kinda twiggy to me.

Not what I was hoping for.  So then I started thinking, since the pot held alot more red in it than the yarn did, maybe I should leave it in the pot longer to see if the yarn pulls in that red dye over time.  So I did.  It sat in the pot overnight.

The next day I rinsed it and and hung it to dry.

What I got was not red. . . .

and it was not twig.

It ended up being kind of a khaki green.

In this grouping, it is the center skein of yarn – which I think helps you see the color when it is next to a brown and a green.

I really like it and now wish I had kept the dyebath to see how much was left for a second skein of yarn.  I have handled it alot and used bare hands in the dyebath and there was no skin irritation.

Next I will measure the yardage and rewind the skein – taking a few yards to leave in a window to test for lightfastness.  If it proves lightfast, I may do this again next year.

I did not give you alot of details here in what I did.  I need to do alot more to feel confident in any process I tell you about.  I did want to show you this though, because I just thought it was cool and no one knew what we would get with this plant.  Next week I will show you what we got with our black walnut hulls.  Hee Hee!!

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About Shelly R.

I am a Mother, a daughter, a sister, a wife, an attorney, a crafter and the granddaughter of an amazing woman - my Polish Grandmother. My Grandmother gave me so much, through her love and her patience, her sayings and her time teaching me how to craft and to give to others, that it seemed fitting to share some of that wisdom, to tell some of her story, and to chat about life and crafts in a way that would be a testament to what she gave me.
This entry was posted in Escape to Evermore, Natural Dyes, yarn and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Natural Dyeing – Poinsettia Leaves

  1. danielle says:

    So cool! This is too much fun.

  2. Colleen Pell says:

    I’m sitting here looking at the poinsettia for the holidays and I was wondering what color I would get. I was hoping it would be red. Well I’ll settle for the green. I always like the colors I get.

    • Shelly R. says:

      If it means anything, this is a great green – probably my favorite as it blends so well with a natural color pallet The search for a true natural red dye continues . . .

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