Friday, 1 May 2015

Dyeing with Gorse

Over Easter I spent a lot of time at our family home in Ireland. All around the house the gorse was blooming in the bright sunlight. Gorse has always had a special place in my heart: as a child I used to run around a sandstone heath that we called "the land of yellow gorse."

copyright: The Estate of Cicely Mary Barker

It put me in mind of some yarn I had seen on Annie's blog, which she had dyed with gorse. I didn't have any base with me, and I couldn't get old of any alum to use as a mordant, so I tried to forget about it. I couldn't! Annie suggested I try it without mordant and hope for the best, so I did!

Sweet husband bought me 400g of white aran-weight from my favourite Irish yarn shop. It's made by the inspiring Kerry Woolen Mill. I have used this yarn before, and I think it might actually be my favourite ever. I knit it on holiday though, so that might bias my opinion!

I spent two days picking gorse petals around the house. If you are ever tempted to do this, please bear in mind that my fingers were very tender afterwards. There sure are some big thorns on a gorse bush! Also you can pick for a very long time and end up with very few flowers. On the plus side they smell amazingly of coconut!

Having learned my lesson from the saffron dyeing experience, I fist made the dye by simmering the petals in a pan full of water for several hours. Then I strained it through a colander lined with a muslin and let it cool, so that the yarn wouldn't be felted by the hot dye water.

The yarn simmered for a few hours and I left it to cool overnight. On rinsing I discovered that the cheapy acrylic I had used to tie the skeins had not been colourfast, so what I have ended up with is a muted pale yellow with the odd blue splodge. Oops! It's lovely though. I'm thinking of knitting it into a blanket (maybe this one?) to remind me of that gorgeous Easter, with it's sparking sunshine and blooming gorse, for years to come.


  1. This is great! Isn't it fun to just experiment with things like this? Too bad about the blue, it's not something you really expect from acrylic yarn...can't wait to see what you make with it.

    1. I know, I have no idea why the acrylic leaked. I think it was to remind me to be humble!

  2. I love the color! I had no idea you could do that with gorse....

    1. I think it will fade over time. Do have a look at Annie's blog she is massively tallented