Natural Dye Process
It takes a significant amount of time and labor to produce naturally-dyed yarn. There are 3 main steps.
The yarn must be prepped which requires pre-wetting and washing at 180ºF for up to an hour in pH-neutral soap. I use wool soap that is specifically formulated for removing impurities and residual lanolin and spinning oil left over from the milling process.
After prepping, I mordant or (fix) the color to the protein fiber. Mordants are naturally occurring metallic salts that bond to the fiber to ready the wool for color saturation and absorption. This takes an additional hour, also at a high temperature.
The final step is dyeing. Natural dyestuff requires time to release its color, so in most cases the dyestuff soaks overnight and is slowly heated for up to 2 hours. (Some dyes even require heating and straining multiple times in order to extract as much pigment as possible.) Finally, the wool is added and continues heating - sometimes many more hours - to achieve the desired color. While this is a very time consuming process - it is worth it! In the world of natural dyeing, there are no shortcuts.