There is a large, vigorous stand of Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis) on the west side of the house. They are remnants of the Lily of the Valley plants that were growing here when we purchased the farm in 1983. I had never considered Lily of the Valley as a dye plant until I was browsing through my collection of books about natural dyeing. Stephania Isaacson in her book “In Search of the Perfect Green and Orange, too! A Natural Dye Book”, 2013, has a section devoted to Lily of the Valley. She suggests using the leaves at at least twice the weight of the fiber being dyed. Since the Lily of the Valley plants next to the house were spreading out into the lawn and over the low growing juniper next to them, I harvested leaves in those areas with abandon. The resulting amount was 466 grams. I cut the leaves into one inch pieces, placed them into a fine mesh bag, and soaked them in water overnight. The next morning the soaking water was clear and had no color. This lack of color was somewhat worrying but I decided to proceed anyway. I transferred the water and the mesh bag to the dye pot and heated to a rolling boil. Slowly, the water turned from clear to pale yellow and then to an orange yellow. I turned down the heat and simmered the bath for one hour. I then removed the mesh bag and divided the dye bath into three equal batches.
I had a total of 122 grams of fiber so my ratio of fiber to dye materials was almost 4 to 1. The first dye bath was neutral and I placed two skeins of yarn into it. One skein was mordanted with 10% weight of fiber with Alum and 5% weight of fiber with Cream of Tarter. The second skein was mordanted with Copper Sulfate liquor. To the second bath, I added 2 Tablespoons of Lime Juice and one skein of the Alum/Cream of Tarter mordanted yarn. The third dye bath received a skein of Alum/Cream of Tarter mordanted yarn plus 1/2 teaspoon of Soda Ash. Each bath was heated to simmer and then simmered for one hour. The results are pictured below. The resulting colors are quite lovely. I particularly like the alkaline (Soda Ash) result of a butterscotch shade. Stephania mentions in her book that the dye bath is slightly toxic if ingested. So, I am planning a careful disposal of the three dye baths (about 1 gallon of water total).