Dyeing with Lady’s Bedstraw

I ended up with 5 lbs. 11oz. of cleaned Lady’s Bedstraw roots. I extracted the roots in two batches because they didn’t all fit in one pot. The first pot held 4 pounds, and the second was 1 pound 11 oz. I extracted each batch of roots twice, and used the baths separately. With the first batch, I put in one and a half Tums for the calcium and I watched the temperature closely (not exceeding 150 degrees F.), but had forgotten about pH with the bedstraws. After straining out the roots, initially the color of the first skein was very drab and I was pretty disappointed. Then I checked the pH and was amazed to see it was pH5 despite the Tums. I took out the skein, added calcium carbonate and washing soda (I ran out of soda ash), and brought the pH up to between 9 and 10. I reintroduced the skein, and woo hoo, pink! A sort of 1980s Giant Foods raspberry sherbert shade.

I extracted the second batch of roots with calcium carbonate and washing soda. In part, I think that explains the difference in the color between the two batches. I also think the smaller batch had more of the thicker (presumably older) woody roots relative to the thinner, presumably younger ones. Anyway, the colors are distinctly different. After many days of making and exhausting dyebaths with the roots, I have dyed 2 and a quarter pounds of singles rug wool. Here are some of the results (and in the background are some of our beautiful habañero plants):

yarns dyed with Lady's Bedstraw roots
Part way through the process, here are the yarns dyed with Lady’s Bedstraw roots. The pinker colored yarns on the left are from the first batch of roots, and the orange colored ones on the right are from the second.

I have exhausted a couple more baths since this photo was taken, yielding lighter colors. I also tried one pound of the tops, but got a pretty boring yellowish beige. There were about 4 more pounds of tops but I decided not to bother using them. I am currently soaking the roots for a third extraction. After they had softened up, I cut the woodier chunks into smaller pieces. I managed to break our non-food food processor trying to grind them up (annoying!) so chopped up small will have to do. I expect I can get one or two coral colored skeins before all is done.

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