How Easy is it to dye wool yarn with Calendula flowers?

Calendula flowers are easy to dye with!

Keep on reading because today I want to show you some of my dyeing and the range of colour options you have when you dye with these beautiful flowers. Calendula (or Pot Marigold) is an easy to grow plant that you can grow in your garden, even in a large pot on a balcony or doorstep! They are a reliable dye which gives a rich colour. The flowers can be used fresh from the plants, or dried and stored for later use.

Although the word “marigold” is in calendula’s common name, it’s not related to the other popular marigolds of the Tagates persuasion like French and African Marigolds. One of its common names is “Poet’s marigold.” I think this came from Shakespeare’s references to calendula in his writing.

Calendula is at the top of the “most popular annuals in the garden” list. Well known for its healing properties and edible flowers, this friendly dyer’s herb fits into any garden. Bees, butterflies and birds love them. Start seeds indoors in the late winter and early spring. The seeds are quite large, a bit like a curl, and easy to plant. Pot marigolds grow from 18-24 inches tall. Calendula will grow almost anywhere, but prefers good soil. Steady deadheading just encourages more flowers, so harvest as much as you can for both the dye pot and your salad bowl. Yes, you can eat the flowers! They taste a bit spicy.

Calendula Flowers

The range of colours you get on wool yarn….

I have dyed these yarns in a traditional dye bath after soaking and simmering the dried flowers. The colour that this method gives is rich and vibrant. A solar dye method gives a paler colour, more a pale golden yellow which is just as beautiful.

Here is the unaltered colour from calendula flowers, a rich golden yellow. I have found it doesn’t make much difference to the finished dye colour if your flowers are orange, or even bronzy-red like I have used. This beautiful colour can work for so many projects; on its own or with contrast or complimenting colours.

Calendula flowers give a golden yellow

Surprisingly, a green is quite a difficult colour to get from natural dyeing in one go. Calendula flowers give the base of yellow and blue is added with an over dye. Here I have overdyed in a random effect with indigo tincture to get this stunning turquoise, green, hint of mint colour. It reminds me of the deep sea on a tropical island, or perhaps a pool in a woodland glade….

A range of colours you can dye with calendula flowers

The skein of olive wool yarn has been “saddened” with an iron after bath modifier. It softens the brightness of the yellow and gives more of a mustard or olive colour, perhaps with a hint of grey tones. The chartreuse green colour is created using a copper sulphate after bath modifier. I think these colours work really well with greys for a Scandi inspired colour theme.

Adding an over dye of cochineal or Amaranth has given this rich terracotta. What project would you use these colours for? They are beautiful on their own, and stunning all together.

Natural dyeing lends itself to experimentation. By using a modifier or changing the pH of the dye you can brighten the colour making it more yellow or even change completely to a different colour. Marigolds aren’t pH sensitive, but natural dyes like Madder and Logwood are.

How can I get started?

Wool yarns with more than 80% wool, (ie not too much nylon) can usually be very successfully dyed with natural dyes. Dyeing yarn with both the standard methods; traditional dye bath and solar dyeing are easy with calendula flowers.

Ideal yarns for dyeing include:

Merino and Merino Alpaca for super soft luxury. This yarn is a great choice for garments like sweaters.

Alpaca Silk for sheen and drape, ideal for a lacy shawl.

British wool yarn like Blue Faced Leicester (BFL) for softness with tradition and pedigree. Most projects work really well with BFL and it takes natural dyes very well.

All the undyed yarns are suitable to dye onto with natural (or synthetic) dyes.

I use alum with cream of tartar as a mordant with my natural dyeing. Alum is a safe and easy mineral mordant to use. It can be poured down the sink or onto the garden with no harmful effects. It is safe enough to eat, though I wouldn’t want to! I have also used rhubarb leaf mordant too with calendula flower dye with the same colour results. Rhubarb leaf mordant has oxalic acid which helps the colours fix. Take care because Oxalic acid is toxic in large quantities. You can dye wool yarns naturally without a mordant, but some colours will fade or be less rich because the mordant helps the colour bind to the fibre.

Natural dyes on cellulose fibres like cotton, linen and bamboo need a different mordant, and the colour tends be be less intense. (Indigo is an exception to this general rule.)

Purely Gorgeous
Purely Gorgeous, wool yarn ready to dye

Want to get started with Calendula Flowers?

You could have a go at growing your own calendula flowers from seed. Pick the flower heads as they open and use them fresh in a dye bath. (Fresh flowers tend to make a very stinky solar dye pot so I wouldn’t recommend it!)

The flowers can be dried in a (food) dehydrator and save them in a large jar to use at another time.

Use a dehydrator to dry your flowers and store them in a jar

Try one of our ready to use dye kits, either the traditional dye kit ( which uses a dye bath in a large saucepan) or a solar dye kit. The solar dye kit is simple to use, but takes several months so you need to be a bit patient! Each kit contains everything you need to dye with calendula flowers on a wool yarn; dye flowers, yarn, mordant, gloves and full instructions and advice.

Why not have a go?

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