Carrot Top Dye

Carrot top dye with iron

My husband returned from the grocery store carrying an overstuffed bag in each arm, his face obscured by a large spray of green foliage.

“Check out these carrots!” he announced while plopping the bags on the counter. He pulled them out of the bag like he plucked them from the earth himself, and shook the green tops with pride.

“I think those make a dye, I replied.”

He furrowed his forehead. That was not the response he wanted. “Yeah, but no, we’re eating these.”

“You and the dog and can keep the carrots, I want those greens.”

My brain must store a folder labeled “potential dyes,” created from countless minutes spent flipping through dye books. Within this folder are scraps of mental paper scratched with bits of dye info: “this *insert plant, flower, mushroom* might potentially make this *insert any color*. Inspiration finds this folder, and without second thought, I’m walking towards my dye pots. The world around me forgotten.

That’s what happened with those carrot greens. This is what I learned.

Carrot tops
Carrot tops on the dye counter

This plant is another natural source of yellow dye that will shift to green with iron. I’ve added it to my “kitchen scrap dye ” list – when you use something that you might otherwise compost. (Although I’ve recently learned that they also make a good pesto.)

If you’d like to watch a video on this dye, please click here.

***A quick side note – The best way to keep up with my videos is to click the subscribe button on my YouTube Channel. This website and my YouTube Channel have different content and I’m not great (yet!) about posting about what is happening over there, here.

Supplies:

  • Stainless steel pot
  • Stir spoon
  • Fiber (As of yet, I’ve only done this on animal fiber with alum premordant)
  • Fresh carrot greens (Best to use within a few days of purchase; you can try chopping and then soaking in water to preserve. Use that water as your dye)
  • Iron

Ratio:

I achieved good results with a simple 1:1 ratio of carrot greens to dry fiber, but like always, I prefer a 2:1 ratio.

Process:

Chop fresh greens into 1-2 inch pieces and simmer for an approximate hour. The goal is for the color the water to turn yellow. Once you see that color, add your fiber. If you prefer to strain dye materials before adding fiber I strongly recommend. Those little pieces really tangle with the yarn.

carrot top dye

Let the yarn simmer for at least 30 minutes, giving the dye time to soak and attach to the fiber. Then pull when you like the color. Just remember that it will dry a shade or two lighter.

Carrot top dyed wool with alum

At this point you’re done! Unless you want green, then let’s keep going.

Iron Afterbath

Iron can be used as a mordant on your fiber before you dye it (like alum). It’s also used to shift color in what’s called an afterbath (a bath after the dye bath). With carrot tops, iron shifts the dye from yellow to green.

With the heat off and the skein pulled from the pot, I add ½-1 teaspoon of iron into the dye and stir thoroughly (per 4oz of wool fiber). Be careful with iron for two reasons: too much can weaken or roughen the wool. And, too much iron can shift your color all the way to brown. I have learned that lesson a few times. I recommend beginning with small amounts, and carefully add more if the color looks like it’s stuck on yellow. Once the dye turns an olive green, stop. Add your fiber, with the heat either off or at a very low heat, let it sit, and stir occasionally. The fiber will slowly shift to green.

That’s it. You are done. Yet another simple method to creating color, naturally.

Who in the family enjoys this new dye the most? The dog. More carrot greens for dyeing means more carrot snacks.

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