Learn How to Dye Yarn With Strawberries

  • 01 of 02

    Preparing the Dyebath and Yarn

    Strawberry Dye Bath
    The strawberry dye bath in a Mason jar. See how the berries have given up most of their color?. © Sarah E. White, licensed to About.com, Inc.

    Dyeing with natural items that you happen to have lying around can be a lot of fun, as I learned when I tried dyeing with dandelions. I decided to take a similar approach with some too-gone-to-eat strawberries that were lingering in my fridge, and both the process and the results were a lot more pleasing the second time around.

    I should say that again I followed the general guidelines for dyeing with natural items that I found in The Complete Guide to Natural Dyeing by Eva Lambert and Tracy Kendall. Though the book doesn't have suggestions for dyeing yarn with strawberries, it does have tips for coloring fabric with blueberries, and that's practically the same, right?

    Making a Strawberry Dye Bath

    A pound of strawberries weighs 454 grams, though it will be a little less when you cut off the stems. I trimmed the stems and cut the berries in half, then covered them with water. (This only matters because the book suggests a weight of fruit that is 100 percent of the weight of the yarn; I used significantly more just because I had them on hand, but you do not need to use that much.)

    Allow the berries to simmer until tender, about 20 minutes. The water will be nice and red and the berries won't be anymore. Let cool a little and then strain. I put mine in a Mason jar because I knew I wasn't going to use it the same day.

    Preparing the Yarn

    Just as with the dandelion dye experiment, I mordanted the yarn (and I used the same yarn, more of my recycled sweater yarn) with alum.

    Because I had a lot more dye I dyed more yarn; about 50 grams. Using the 8 percent figure offered in the natural dyeing book, I used about 4 grams of alum.

    Fill a pot with water, add the alum and the yarn in hanks. Bring up to a simmer slowly and allow to simmer for at least 30 minutes. I think mine went about an hour because I forgot about it!

    Allow to cool and remove the yarn from the water. You can either go ahead and dye right now with the same water or put the wet yarn in a plastic bag to keep it moist for later (having the yarn wet before it meets the dye allows the color to adhere better).

    Continue to 2 of 2 below.
  • 02 of 02

    Dyeing the Yarn

    Strawberry Yarn
    The yarn dyed with strawberries came out a pretty pink. © Sarah E. White, licensed to About.com, Inc.

    Once the yarn and the water have cooled it's time to dye the yarn with strawberries. You can use the same water you used to mordant the yarn or get fresh if you prefer (or if you're doing this step days later).

    Pour the dye into the water, adding more if necessary to cover the yarn. Put the yarn in and stir a little to make sure the yarn is covered.

    As before, bring to a boil slowly and allow to simmer for at least an hour (mine went about two), or until the yarn is the color you want or the water has become clear. Because I had more dye than I needed for the amount of yarn I had, the water was still sort of pink when I decided the yarn was done.

    Again allow the yarn to cool a bit in the pot before removing. Drain off what water you can, then allow the yarn to dry on a towel.

    If desired, you can rinse the yarn first until the water runs clear; this will keep the yarn from running so much should you ever wash it again when it's knit into a project. After drying, roll back into a ball and use as you would any other yarn!