I knew nothing about Solar Dyeing until I visited my first ‘Woolfest’ a fair number of years ago. Held in June each year on the outskirts of Cockermouth, Cumbria; ‘Woolfest’ is a festival that celebrates all aspects of wool and its production from the Uk and beyond. You can see many wonderful breeds of sheep including Rare Breeds and you can also enjoy wandering amongst the hundreds of craft stalls displaying the very latest products and supplies. There is also plenty of opportunity to watch demonstrations and learn new craft techniques. The wealth of information and the end results I saw from the solar dyeing demonstration certainly gave me plenty of ideas. Solar dyeing allows you to dye wool, yarns and fabrics by using only plants and flowers (the dye stuff), and then using the power of the sun as the heat source to set the dyes – so I couldn't wait to have a go!
For my very first Kilner Jar I used white carded wool and pure white muslin which I placed in the jar with a variety of flowers and leaves including Birch, Hawthorn, Honeysuckle, Oak, Elder and Dog Rose . Once filled and topped up with fresh water and the lid closed tight, the jar was placed on the kitchen window sill and was not opened until 6 months later. The colour of the muslin had changed from pure white to a rich cream and the carded wool was now a pretty shade of pale pink. Since then I have used autumn fruits, nuts and leaves, small pine cones, beechnuts, hazelnut shells, acorns, Heather blooms and Oak leaves. I have also used a differnet variety of materials and mordants which include Iron, Alum, vinegar and cream of tartar. The mordant helps to ‘fix’ the colour.
That first year I filled one jar with Lichens and a second jar contained the vibrant sweet smelling flowers of the Gorse. Each of the jars contained a mordant of ‘alum’ and both contained washed fleece. Placed on the windowsill, there they sat until february of the following year and what a brilliant result! The 'Gorse' Jar - the light coloured fleece was a beautiful shade of deep yellows and the darker fleece a mixture of greens. The 'Lichen' jar - the fleece had shades of pale orange. (see photo).