Dyeing with natural dyes is fun and easy to do. Wool takes dyes more readily than cotton or other fibers, so why not dye some yarn that you (or your mother) can make into something? Knit up a handsome scarf, or some mittens. Stitch a needlepoint pillow or a wallhanging for your room.
You need to boil up some leaves, bark, or nutshells to extract your dye. In general, you need two pounds of fresh materials, and one pound of nutshells, barks, or berries in order to dye a pound of yarn.
Strain the dye and put it into a large kettle filled with enough water to cover the wool. Your wool should be sitting in a mordant bath, made the previous day from 4 ounces of alum mixed with one ounce of cream of tartar in a kettle of water.
Add your wool and bring it to a boil. Cook for one hour, then let sit overnight.
Add the mordanted wool and place this kettle on the store (have your parents help whenever you use the stove). Poke the wool gently with a spoon as the water gets hot, and the wool takes on the color you want (remember it will be lighter when it’s dry).
Let the wool cool in the kettle. Rinse it with cool water until the rinse water runs clear. Gently squeeze the water from the wool and hang the yarn to dry in a shaded spot. Now get out your knitting needles!
Notes on color: Goldenrod flowers will turn your wool yellow-brown. Bark from a maple tree will yield a rosy-tan dye. Onion skins will dye wool a burnt-orange color.
[Image: Courtesy of Flickr user londonne]