Orange Cosmos (Cosmos sulphureus)

At this time of year there are a lot of things to harvest, including dye plants. Some things can be strung up to dry, such as marigold blossoms. Other things, such as orange cosmos flowers, I store in the freezer. When the first cosmos were ready to pick a few weeks ago, I realized that our freezer was still full of bags of cosmos I froze last summer! So on September 1st I decided I’d better make some room. Cosmos are easy to distinguish from pesto, ginger, and the other non-commercial items in our freezer, which is lucky because I had re-used zip-lock bags last summer and you can see that the labels weren’t helpful.

bad label 2bad label 1





This is not good practice. Label your bags accurately! It is probably also not good practice to store food and non-food things in the same freezer, but we only have one freezer so that’s how it is.

I made a very strong dyebath using 5 lb. of frozen orange cosmos flowers. Since my pots are pretty small, I divided the quantity between two 2-gallon pots, and ran two baths simultaneously.

cosmos simmering

Orange cosmos are pH sensitive, and you get much redder colors if the pH is high. After straining out the flowers, I used ammonia to increase the pH. I have run out of pH test strips at the moment so I can’t tell you exactly what it was. In the initial dyebaths I added 4 Tbs. ammonia per pot (about one and a half gallons of liquid) before adding the yarn. For each subsequent exhaust bath I added 2 Tbs. ammonia. The yarn is 4 ply rug wool (Helsingin Villakehraamo from Finland, bought at the Hill Institute a few years ago), premordanted with aluminum sulfate.

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