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Collect Open: Collecting Dye Plants

Updated: Dec 24, 2022

I really enjoyed exploring natural dyes for the first time with this project. Using materials sourced close to home to dye my hand spun yarn was important as it reinforced the connection to place within the designs.


Living in the Scottish countryside, nettles were an obvious start when I decided to begin collecting plant material to create natural dyes. We have woodlands full of them here from spring through to early winter so they weren’t hard to find.

I collected the leaves based on 1g of plant materials to dye 1g of wool, I spent an awful lot of time stacking up skeins of white wool for future colour groups before I started! I ended up with around 500g of nettle leaves, half picked in the spring and half in the autumn which I planned to dye half a kilo of yarn with.

This very quick video shows me collecting nettles from my brothers garden. He was getting ready to cut them back for winter so I got there just in time!

Thick rubber gloves and an old paper potato bag were my tools for the day. I collected the leaves then let the bag sit outside for a couple of days to make sure any insects picked up by accident could escape.

With this batch of nettles collected in the autumn and another collected in earlier in the summer I was interested in seeing if there was a difference in the dye colours each produced.


Alder cones were next on my list of plant dyes to collect and ended up being trickier to find than nettles. We spent a few hours on a sunny day in October wandering along the riverbank looking for alder trees and picking up cones as we went.

Finn got very excited thinking we were collecting cones for her (she loves to chase them!) but quickly got fed up and went for a swim instead 😂

We managed to collect enough to dye a few skeins of yarn, i think if we had gone looking a few weeks earlier we might have found more but at least I’ll know for next time!


Here’s a roundup of a few of the other plant materials I collected to dye the yarn.

With the exception of the cones, lichen and avocados, they were all found in my grandma’s incredible garden. She was a huge help in identifying and collecting plant materials to use in my project and was great about letting me pick anything I wanted to try!

She died before I got to the yarn dying phase of the project but the tapestries are full of the colours which were in her garden and some of the yarn has a faint smell of lavender or eucalyptus when I’m weaving with it which is nice. We don’t have her or her garden anymore but I feel like I still have a small part of them as these wall hangings wouldn’t exist without either.

The plant materials in order of the images; rose petals, lavender, eucalyptus bark, eucalyptus leaves, rosemary, lupins, fir cones, lichen and avocado pits/skins.


If you’d like to see the final pieces in person, tickets for collect are on sale now. The link to my KoFi fundraising page is if you’d like to help me get to Collect Open 2022!

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