My first attempt at dyeing wool using Rosemary

I recently foraged some rosemary that I found during a walk around my local area.

It was really nice to find some rosemary growing locally and something that I hadn’t noticed in my walk before until I started delving into the world of natural dyeing.

It was growing in abundance so I felt it was ok to pick some since it was less than 10% of what was there as I don’t want to disturb the balance of nature too much.

I decided I was going to dye some Southdown Aran weight wool with the rosemary. I was very keen to use the Southdown wool since it is a breed of sheep associated with Sussex, where I live.

I have purchased and used this wool before from Southdown Yarns and Louise who owns this yarn company in Sussex also dyes her yarns naturally. I highly recommend checking out her website where you can find more information if you’d like to purchase some Southdown wool that she has in some beautiful shades from her natural dyes:

I used approximately 300g of Rosemary with a 100g skein of Southdown wool.

Rosemary contains tannins so I’m hoping it will be colour fast after dyeing the wool.

I didn’t strip the rosemary from the leaves and decided in the end to put the whole rosemary with the stems into the dye pot.

I heated them in an aluminium dye pot on quite a high heat since I felt there wasn’t much colour being extracted when I initially heated the rosemary on a low heat.

After heating, the dye was initially a green colour.

I then sieved the dye into a bowl through a cheesecloth to catch all the leaves and stems so that I was left with a concentrated dye. I decided to heat it up again in the dye pot and this time the colour turned a very dark brown.

I added the wool to the dye pot and heated again and this was the colour the dye pot showed after heating:

I left the wool in the dye pot for approximately three days to allow for the dye particles to bond with the wool.

After removing the wool from the dye pot and drying it, I was left with this colour:

I was really happy with the colour that was produced from the Rosemary. It’s a really nice tan / light brown shade. The wool also currently has a very fragrant rosemary smell which is quite nice.

I think the reason the dye changed colour from initially green to this brown was to do with the aluminium pot I used. I have read that different metal pots can give different results from the colour.

I also think the colour of the rosemary depends on the time of year it is used. The batch of rosemary I used was fresh from spring and not dried out so it would be interesting to see if I’m able to forage this rosemary again in winter time to see if that makes a different colour.

I’m going to let the wool rest for a couple of weeks before rinsing and knitting with it so hopefully it remains more colour fast.