Dyeing With Dinner

Find yourself a good black bean recipe and prepare your freezer bags.

Did you know that dyes can be harnessed naturally? Most fiberistas know the wonders of indigo and cochineal but there is a vast rainbow of natural and non-traditional dyes all around. Summers in Maine present many opportunities to pick wild flowers for dye pots.

When I realized I could dye wool with black beans I was excited to experiment. Inexpensive and delicious, black beans can do no wrong in my book. Last winter I found I could achieve slate grey with a blue tone when I overdyed a heathered brown wool. I plan to try a lustrous white wool next. With the warm summer sun, the results should be an interesting dark grey.

A very important preliminary step in natural dyeing is the mordant. Without a mordant the dye does not adhere to the fiber. You may get a faint stain, but to truly harness the rainbow of dyes available from natural products, a mortant is key. I like to use Alum and Cream of Tartar. They are the safest chemicals used for mortanting, but not the only options. Tin, copper, and iron can be used as mortants to achieve different results from the same dye source. Some plants will give various shades with a little chemical help. Being that I am merely an adventurous potions novice, I like to er on the side of caution and only use mild chemicals.

First you need to know how much DRY fiber you are working with. This amount will come in to play in both the mortant and dye processes. For ease of understanding, I will use a standard 4oz skein as a base example.

First day:


Soak fiber in warm water.

Bring water to boil in dyepot.

Dissolve 10% Alum (0.4oz) + 5% Cream of Tartar (0.2oz) in a small cup of hot water. Stir this mixture into the dyepot.

Add warm wetted fiber to dyepot. I use a plate or weight to submerge all fiber below the water.

Bring to boil. Simmer at 190 F for 1 hour.

Turn off heat, leave to cool overnight



Fill a large tub with a bit more water than your dyepot holds.

Dump 4 times as much organic black beans (bulk black turtle beans at The Natural Living Center work great) as the fiber weight (16oz) into the tub. Stir.

Soak beans overnight.


Second day:


Skim liquid off the top with measuring cup and dump in the dye pot.

Drain fiber and put into dyepot.

Place in sunny spot for 3-7 days

Cook up your beans. They freeze well for future use.

After a few days remove the fiber and rinse. It won't smell great at this point, but a quick wash with Dr Bronner's does the trick.

I hope my adventure in natural dyeing has inspired you to experiment with natural dyes in your own way!


Assistant Potions Master and Eager Weaver,



Dying in the Basement

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I’m no dye aficionado but, as with all things fiber, I've been drawn to learn. Here, at One Lupine/Maine Yarn & Fiber Supply, people who come to inquire of the Owner often hear, “Jodi is in the basement dying.” We hand dye and hand paint all of our house label yarns (all, that is, except those we leave in their natural sheep’s color). We use acid dyes from a company established since the 1800s. They work well with protein fibers: wool, animal hair, alpaca, mohair, synthetic nylon, feathers, and some silks. They produce bright colors, are light and colorfast, and are water soluble.


Natural dyes are different altogether. They come from plants (flowers, roots, nuts, leaves, and bark), minerals, fungi, and even some insects. They produce a nice range of colors. Most natural dyes must be “set” with a mordant (i.e.: vinegar, alum etc.) to keep them from running and fading. Mordants chemically bind the dye and the fibers together. Different mordants result in color variations, depending on what you use.  A walk in nature will get you dreaming about which materials produce which colors. A few examples you might spy are: goldenrod, oak bark, willow leaves, walnuts, dandelion (roots), and iris.


For many years, there was a great magazine called Shuttle, Spindle, and Dye Pot which was chock full of information for weavers, spinners, and dyers. I recently saw that it is once again available to members of HGA (Handweavers Guild of America) in download format. Or, you might consider a fiber getaway to HGA’s 2018 Reno Convergence, July 6-12 where you could find a complimentary copy. Fiber kenthusiasts of all ilks will be gathering. Regardless of whether you choose to get away or not, you’ll find many references on dying wool available in books, at your local library, and on the Internet.


Joy Moody

MYFS Yarn Shop Manager

Beginner Knitting


Knitting is a pass time that enhances our lives in so many ways ~ from the comfort of that first blanket on and for cozy nights, to the baby hat that welcomes a newborn into the world, knitting is a skill that beautifies the home and wraps us in the warmth and breathability of natural fibers.


Today, my thoughts turn to beginner knitters. We all approach new things in different ways, but it is common for beginners to come to their first class with a degree of fear and trepidation. This is supposed to be fun! I always say, “It’s O.K. It’s not going to blow up! Breathe. There’s a learning curve, like anything else, and it’s perfectly fine to give yourself permission to make mistakes.”


Mistakes create opportunities to learn additional skills: focus more on “seeing” stitches (& mistakes) as we go, developing the patience to rip back, learning to knit backwards (OMG!), or fixing a stitch many rows down. Whatever happens as you knit your beginner pieces, a year from now you will be amazed at what you can do, thrilled to be wearing and showing off your projects, and receiving compliments that you never expected.



MYFS Yarn Shop Manager

Benefits of Knitting

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There has been quite a buzz about the therapeutic value of knitting these days and, not surprisingly, a series of studies verifying the benefits. As a former Art Therapist (& one who also ran an occupational therapy department in a past life), I have long been aware of how our pace, senses, thoughts, experiences, and exposure to different mediums impact how we feel and how we express ourselves. For many years I had only been a Winter knitter, so it took me by surprise when I found myself knitting year round and stopped to ask myself why. It was one of those, “Well, duh!” moments as I connected with the fact that with my husband’s terminal illness, I had naturally gravitated to knitting as a stress management tool.

We now know that the rhythmic movements of knitting become a kind of meditative experience. Our blood pressure is lowered, and our heart rate slows. If we choose, we can be blessed with mindless moments where the absence of thought is a relief. For some, this is also a time when we feel at One with our Creator ~ a spiritual connection during which guidance for our life is received. For others, there is something magical about the tactile aspects of the fibers ~ those once-live-on-the-animal and now live-in-our-hands fibers that speak to us of farm, warmth, and creature comforts.

Whatever our reasons are for knitting, we can always be assured that what we knit will express who the sheep was, who we are as expressive beings, and at least one way we present ourselves to the world.

Joy Moody

MYFS Yarn Shop Manager

The Nash Island Story

The Nash Island Story

Like so many great Maine stories, this one begins with an island, a lighthouse, and the elusive alchemy of love.  In 1916, before interstates and easy communication, in a time when remote rural life was not powered by electricity and automobiles, when ships depended on a granite bound beacon to guide them over the shoals, a lighthouse keeper’s daughter found her place in the world.

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