Texas Dandelion Dye

I tried a new plant from the yard, and couldn’t believe the depth of color!

L to R – Licorice Twist yarn with dandelion dye, same with ammonia modifier, two skeins of Euro 6-ply sock yarn with dandelion dye.

Texas Dandelions in the pasture.

This is from Texas Dandelion, Pyrrhopappus paucifloris.  The really great thing about it, is that it grows on very tall stalks, meaning I don’t have to lean way over to pick it!

One blossom.

Tub of flowers.

The flowers packed lightly into containers.

The steeped dye, one half hour after pouring hot water over the flowers.

My first attempts at natural dyeing were made with some inexpensive wool yarn that was pretty rough.  Once I found out that I could actually get nice results, I upgraded to Licorice Twist wool and Euro 6-ply sock yarn from Dharma Trading, and I really like the feel of both yarns, even after they’ve been dyed.  (I don’t get anything for mentioning them, I just put the links to make your life easier if you are interested in these yarns.)

I found lots of little critters while I was harvesting the dandelions — you can see them here.

I have written about my dye process in other posts, but here it is again for those who need it.

Yarn Prep/Mordanting

Jenny Dean’s Wild Color has tons of research on dye variables.  I have tried several of her methods, but now I stick to just one, alum, and I have simplified her recipe so much I don’t even have to look it up anymore.

Equipment — all set aside for dyeing purposes only.

  • dish tub or plastic storage box
  • big enamel pot, the size for canning
  • tea pot
  • Pyrex measuring cups
  • measuring spoons
  • big Pyrex bowls
  • alum (I use McCormick brand from the grocery store)
  • cream of tartar (I use Adams brand from the grocery store)

Fill the dish tub with water and put in your yarn to soak.  You can soak it as long as overnight.

Put 2 gallons of cool water into the big enamel pot.  (I have used distilled and also our well water.)

Boil about 5 cups of water separately.

In one measuring cup, mix 2 ounces alum* with 2 cups boiling water, until dissolved. (*McCormick actually has only 1.9 ounces but that works fine.)

In another measuring cup, mix 2 ounces of cream of tartar with 2 cups boiling water, until dissolved.

Add a half cup of the alum solution to the cool water in the big pot, and mix in well.

Add one-half cup of the cream of tartar mixture to the cool water in the big pot.  Stir everything well.

Place about 8 ounces of wool yarn in the big enamel pot, heat to just about boiling.  Turn down heat and let simmer one hour.   Take the yarn out and place into a large bowl with some of the solution, and do not rinse!

Repeat with remaining solution and yarn — add a half cup of the alum solution and the cream of tartar solution, a new skein of soaked yarn, heat, let simmer one hour, etc.

When all your yarn is mordanted, put all the skeins back in the large pot, and let them soak overnight.

The next morning, take them out and hang them to dry in the shade, but do not rinse!

Harvesting Plant Material

Take the usual precautions:

  • only pick on your own property or where you have permission
  • only pick a percentage, not every plant you can find
  • watch out for thorns, bees, allergens, etc.

When harvesting your plant material, you are trying to get an equal weight of plants and yarn.



  • glass cooking pots or half-gallon size Mason jars  (I use this size because they won’t fit in my canning kettle, therefore I know they are for dyeing only.)
  • tea kettle
  • long tongs
  • oven mitt

Pack the plant material into the jar or pot, but leave room for yarn.

Pour boiling water over the plant material.  Let it cool for a few minutes, and then add the yarn.

Let sit for about 24 hours.  Good dye material like the Texas Dandelion will give a lovely clear color within a few minutes — you can take the yarn out as soon as it is a shade you like.  Longer dye times will produce deeper color.

When you take the yarn out, do not rinse!  Hang it in the shade to dry.  You can then re-dye with the same plant, or another to get a different shade, if you want.  Let the yarn rest up to a year before you rinse it.