The Time Traveler’s Dye: Jewelweed

August 22, 2013 in Creating The 18th Century, Living history, Outlander Inspired Knitting Patterns by M C

jewel1Jewelweed grows from southern Canada to Oklahoma and is often called “touch-me-not” for its exploding seed pods.  As a medicinal, jewelweed is a topical remedy for poison ivy, poison oak, nettle stings and insect bites.

It also makes a user friendly introduction to natural dying.

Jewelweed will produce color ranging from a lovely peach to a buttery yellow (as the dye exhausts).  Overdying gray will yield a subtle bronze, so while it can be done, jewelweed is best used on white wools and fabrics.

While your wool will benefit from being pre-mordanted, it isn’t, in this case, strictly necessary. And while it aids in the dye staying colorfast, alum, is also not strictly necessary.  You can make a very successful dye from a pile of jewelweed, a pair of scissors, a pot of water, and a tablespoon or two of cream of tartar.

Gather a pile of jewelweed, cutting it off above the ground (you don't need the roots, and you don't want the plants dirty)

Gather a pile of jewelweed, cutting it off above the ground (you don’t need the roots, and you don’t want the plants dirty)

Chop your jewelweed up and cover it with water.  Simmer for a couple of hours, stirring when you think of it.

Chop your jewelweed up and cover it with water. Simmer for a couple of hours, stirring when you think of it.

Scoop out as much of the plant material as you can with a slotted spoon, then filter the dye through a sieve to remove the remaining plant material. Don't worry about getting "all" of the dye, leave the sediment in the bottom of the pot, heave the waste into the compost pile, and rise the pot.

Scoop out as much of the plant material as you can with a slotted spoon, then filter the dye through a sieve to remove the remaining plant material. Don’t worry about getting “all” of the dye, leave the sediment in the bottom of the pot, heave the waste into the compost pile, and rise the pot.

Add, if you have it, about 1/3 c alum to 3-4 gallons of dye, and 1 T cream of tartar for every 2 gallons of dye you have.  Wet your wool or fabric, wring it out, and submerge it in the dye pot.

Add, if you have it, about 1/3 c alum to 3-4 gallons of dye, and 1 T cream of tartar for every 2 gallons of dye you have. Wet your wool or fabric, wring it out, and submerge it in the dye pot.

Jewelweed dyes quickly, within 10 minutes you can pull out lovely shades of peach.  As the pot exhausts you'll get buttery yellow.  The bronze in the middle is jewelweed over a natural gray wool.

Jewelweed dyes quickly, within 10 minutes you can pull out lovely shades of peach. As the pot exhausts you’ll get buttery yellow. The bronze in the middle is jewelweed over a natural gray wool.  Rinse your wool or fabric in clean water with a splash of vinegar added to neutralize the acid in the cream of tartar, rinse in fresh water to get the vinegar smell out.. and hand to dry.

If you liked dying with Jewelweed, you’ll love Bree’s Blue: Dying with Indigo

 

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