Reseda luteola

Reseda luteola

It’s the first day of April and hurrah the April showers are here. And, amazingly, the plants have responded so quickly. I have noticed, almost overnight, some Reseda luteola springing up in the field next door. It’s a very innocuous looking plant, one that many will have seen but simply not noticed. For the dyer it is gold, or rather the source of an amazing gold colour.  Luteola comes from the Latin meaning yellowish; one of my favourite orchids is Ophrys lutea, a stunning yellow.

The common name for the plant is Weld, or Dyer’s rocket. It’s one of the oldest yellow dye plants and, when it was over-dyed with Woad, produced the colour Lincoln Green.

Last June I had a go at using the plant and was actually quite shocked by the result. I got, just from using a cold dye bath, the most neon yellow. For this method 100g of plant tops were simply chopped up and boiling water poured over them, and this was left overnight.  The next day I added 2 x 25g mordanted skeins (ie double the dyestuff to yarn) and again left overnight. Wow!

In fact, for me, the colour was a little overwhelming. The exhaust, however, gave a gentler yellow, and then I also added one skein to the exhaust of prunus cerasifera which was giving me a lovely sea green / blue shade. The result was a striking lime (on the right):

Not having any more time to experiment with the plant I hung up a load to dry in the barn.

The other day I thought I’d have a go and see what colour could now come from the plant, it didn’t look very promising it has to be said. The three bunches weighed about 400g at the time but having chopped up only one I got about 36g. I went ahead with the cold bath method again and added, the next day, two mordanted skeins. The first was 100% wool and the second 75% wool with 25% alpaca. They each weighed 25g.

The all wool produced a slightly deeper shade but still the colour was tremendous. Well done, Weld!

PS If you liked the lime green colour you can buy the sock kit (yarn and pattern) it belongs to from my shop.