Black Beans as a Natural Dye ~ Revisited

by Cynthia on April 3, 2011

A couple months back I posted about using black beans as a natural dye for some wool yarn. I was slightly disappointed by the results I achieved as I was expecting to get a blue dye like others have but instead I got an interesting shade of green.

Here is the picture from that post in case you don’t feel like clicking back to it.

Yarn dyed with Black Beans

It turned out to be a really pretty shade of green- sort of sage like but certainly not blue.

Last week I decide to attempt the black bean dye again and once again ended up with some interesting results. Still no blue but I was wowed by the shade of green I achieved. Normally I overdye an indigo dyed hank of yarn with a yellow natural dye (like goldenrod) to achieve such a green. I believe my recent results all lie in the type of well water we have at my home. Rather acidic really and not always easy to play with when it comes to my natural dyes.

Below is a picture of the two 2 ounce skeins that I dyed last week.

Black Beans as a Natural Dye on Wool

Can you note the variegations in the color in places? I love that part the most. I dyed these two skeins of yarn a little bit differently than my first initial attempt with the black bean dye.

For those interested, here is what I did this time around:

  • Soaked about 3 cups of black beans for 12 hours with 1 Tablespoon of baking soda added to the water (to help the beans to soften up- I later turned them into dinner for us!)
  • Drained the beans, reserving the now colored water. To this water I added my 2 skeins of yarn that had previously had alum applied to them as a mordant.
  • Added more water to the beans plus another tablespoon of baking soda and allowed them to soak for another 12 hours.
  • Once more I drained the beans and added this water to the dyepot with the already soaking skeins.
  • For the final time I added fresh water once again to the beans along with another tablespoon of baking soda. I allowed them to soak for about another 12 hours.
  • Finally, I drained the beans and again added this water to the dye pot. I then let the yarn soak about another 12 hours for a total of 48 hours.

So, the beans soaked for a total of 36 hours and the yarn for 48. After soaking I rinsed the yarns really well. (The last 12 hours of soaking didn’t make them smell so nice!) I then allowed them to air out outside. (I would have allowed them to dry out there but they ended up getting rained on- it was such a rainy month!)

The final results:

Black Beans

Here they are next to some yarn that I recently dyed using spent tea leaves.

Black Beans and Tea Leaves

I am going to knit these into a pair of pants for Baby Gabriel.

I hope I made this clear enough to follow. Please ask questions if I did not. I’m sure everyone else’s results will dramatically vary from mine. One of the exciting elements to natural dyes, I think! I love the fact that such a wonderful color can be achieved so simply from a product that is very easy to obtain. I hope this inspires some of you to give it a go!

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