Dyeing with Basil and Fennel

Every since I started naturally dyeing yarn, I’ve wanted to get gray—my favorite color. So this year, I grew both Bronze Fennel and Opal Basil from seed, after reading both can produce the color I seek if the fiber is silk. Both have grown well, the fennel is in a pot away from other plants (as it doesn’t often play well with others) and the basil is out among my tomato plants (which are plentiful but still green—a problem a lot of local people seem to be having.) For both materials, I crushed them up and shoved them in the leg of an old pair of pantyhose (to create a teabag of sorts) and let them simmer with the fiber. In the fennel pot, I used a skein of merino/silk blend. The result was not a gray but rather a soft, subtle yellow, plenty pretty in its own right. (In the top photo, it is the one of the left.)

When I did the opal basil, I used a few skeins of wool/Angora and a couple of 100% noil silk. As they were simmering, the color was similar to the fennel, a greenish-yellow. When I added a splash of vinegar it changed to a purple. The silk turned out the nicest and held to the fiber the best (it’s the one farthest to the right in the top photo.) Granted it didn’t stay that bright purple but the final bluish gray is perfect in my opinion. Unfortunately, the wool/Angora lost a lot of its color (center skein in the top photo.) I’m on the fence about it. When I first saw it dry, I thought it looked a bit like dirty water. But it has since been growing on me: If you look closely you can see a very subtle color variegation and honestly it looks great in these photos, under this light. If I still don’t like it later int he season, I have the option to dunk it in a pot of black walnuts or maybe even berries.