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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.

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.

Arum Lily leaves and wool to be dyed.

Arum Lily leaves and wool to be dyed.

Equipment and Supplies

  • White or natural colour yarn. I used 2 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 2 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.

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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 of the 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 dyebath has cooled to either lukewarm or cold, add the skeins of wool.
  2. Heat the water slowly bringing it to just below simmering point.
  3. Keep the dyebath at just below a simmer for 30 minutes. Another important point! Boiling the dyebath 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.


In the morning I rinsed the dyed wool in rainwater till the water was clear, then squeezed the wool gently and put 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