Textile Byways - Dyeing with Curly Dock - Montana 2014

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Once we walked the land surrounding the cabin, we noticed that there was quite a bit of Curly Dock also known as Rumex crispus. This plant is native to Europe and North Africa and now grows wild in many states across the U.S. It blends into its surroundings when fresh, but when it dries out it is easily spotted by its bright rust colored stalk. After the plants sends up a tall shoot of flowers, it dries to a beautiful red/brown color. This is the prime time to pick for dyeing.

The plant can be toxic to sheep, cattle, and poultry. It is also known to be an invasive species in numerous states. However, it is said the plants have nutritional value for humans and the leaves can be eaten cooked. So reflecting on the previous post, given the criteria that I like to choose plants which are invasive and are known to make good dye plants, Adrienne and I decided to harvest curly dock and to dye a bit of Clover. We thought it would be fun to dye Montana wool with Montana plants.

We pre-mordanted the yarn with aluminum potassium sulfate before leaving California. That way, we could just jump into the dyeing process.

Here is the recipe we used:


1 tablespoon of aluminum potassium sulfate (aps) per 100g of yarn

Fill a pot with enough water for the yarn to float freely. Dissolve the aps in hot water. Add the dissolved aps to the pot of water. Add the yarn. Slowly over the course of a half hour bring the pot to 190 degrees. Keep at 190 degrees for one hour. Allow to cool.


We did not bring a scale to Montana. In an ideal world, I would weigh the dyestuff, in this case, curly dock, before using it. I would record the weight of yarn I want to dye. Divide this number in half - gather and use this amount of curly dock. In dye-speak, I would use half the weight-of-the-goods (50%) in dyestuff.

Though in reality, not having a scale, I grabbed a few, large, hand fulls of curly dock.

Fill a pot with water. Chop the curly dock using clippers and add it to the pot.

Put the pot on the stove for 3 hours at a low simmer to extract the dye from the plant.

Strain the dyebath into a bucket. Then, put the strained dyebath back into the pot.

Add the yarn to the dyebath. Put the pot on the stove, slowly over the course of half an hour, bring the pot to 190 degrees, Keep at 190 degrees for one hour. Allow to cool.

Wash. Hang to dry.

We have a few skeins of this yarn available for purchase. Email if you are interested.


As you may have noticed, I am a bit behind schedule - sorry! This past weekend Verb had it's 4th Anniversary Party and it was my birthday yesterday. We went to Alcatraz to see the Ai Weiwei exhibit @Large. It was very good. If you are in the area, it is well worth a visit. Tomorrow on the blog, I resume our schedule and discuss clothing created for the trip. And, I talk with Tasa about how she made one of the very special pieces worn on the trip.