Skip to main content

How to Hand-Dye Wool With Arum Lily Leaves

I've become an avid spinner over the last few years and have begun to experiment with hand-dyeing.

Arum Lily leaves and wool to be dyed

Arum Lily leaves and wool to be dyed

How to Dye Wool With Arum (Calla) Lily Leaves

The Arum Lily (also known as a Calla Lily) is classified as a weed in Australia and grows on unused swampy land. As many native species are protected, using weeds to dye yarn makes sense. It’s OK to gather them in large quantities with no damage to the environment, and using them in this way can help reduce their incidence. Not only that, they produce some lovely, natural colours.

Arum Lily foliage produces a beautiful soft green. I have just begun using natural materials to dye yarn, so this is an experiment for me. Let’s hope it works!

Please note: Arum Lily plants are toxic if consumed.

Equipment and Supplies

  • White or natural colour yarn. I used two bobbins of homespun yarn wound into skeins, but you can use commercial yarn if you prefer. Note: This method is best with wool or alpaca (protein fibres).
  • Arum Lily leaves. I collected two large grocery bags full.
  • Copper sulphate (available from hardware stores—look in the garden section).
  • Large saucepan
  • Tongs
  • Metal spoon
  • Mesh laundry bag (optional)
  • Stove top
Preparing the dye bath

Preparing the dye bath

How to Prepare the Dye Bath

  1. Place the arum lily leaves in a mesh bag. This is not essential but will help prevent any vegetable matter from getting into the yarn.
  2. Place the bag in the saucepan.
  3. Fill the saucepan with water (rainwater if you can) to cover the leaves and bag.
  4. Add about a tablespoon of copper sulphate.
  5. Place the saucepan on the stovetop and bring the water to a slow boil, then turn the heat down to simmer.
  6. The mesh bag will float to the top occasionally. Push it back into the water with your metal spoon, so it is submerged.
  7. Leave the mix to simmer for a couple of hours. The water should turn green, which means your dye bath is ready.
  8. Turn off the heat and leave the mixture to cool. This is important! Adding wool to hot water can shock it, resulting in felting.
Wool added to the dye bath

Wool added to the dye bath

Dyeing the Wool

  1. When the dye bath has cooled to either lukewarm or cold, add the skeins of wool.
  2. Heat the water slowly, bringing it to just below the simmering point.
  3. Keep the dye bath at just below a simmer for 30 minutes. Another important point! Boiling the dye bath can cause the colour to change, leaving you with yucky brown wool instead of soft green.
  4. Remove the skeins with tongs (they will be hot).
  5. Leave to cool naturally—overnight is best.
The result

The result

Voila!

In the morning, I rinsed the dyed wool in rainwater till the water was clear, then squeezed the wool gently and put it outside to dry. Voila! A pretty soft green.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Nan Hewitt