Natural dying with nettles

I did something I’ve been meaning to for a very long time earlier this week – made nettle soup! I’d never cooked with nettles before, but I used this recipe, and the helpful instructions for gathering earlier in the Instructable, and had no problems. I’ll definitely be trying more nettle recipes soon.


The soup turned out wonderfully tasty, but it only used the leaves from all the nettles I’d gathered, and I’d collected far too many. What to do with the stalks and leftover leaves?
Well, luckily, the trousers for my dwarf costume are getting a bit washed out. I dyed them with a blackberry dye last autumn, but it was a bit weak to start with and isn’t the most wash fast dyestuff. I had a silk scarf that hadn’t dyed too well just begging for another dip too, so nettle dying it was.
Here’s the scarf and trousers before dying;


I’ve chucked nettles in with other dyestuffs before, but not used them on their own. I was expecting quite a strong green from them, so decided on an iron based mordant to dull it a little. Nothing to do with having two old Brillo pads to hand or ought…

So, I covered a pot full of nettles, stalks, leaves and all, with boiling water, then plonked the lid on and let them steep overnight. It ended up being most of a day in the end. The liquid was looking a lovely deep emerald green by this point. I prepped the fabric, plonked it, still wet but well rinsed after mordanting, in my dying tub, then strained the nettle juice onto it. I topped it up with a little boiling water, then simmered it forĀ around an hour


I left it on the hob overnight, to cool and steep. In the morning, this was the colour I’d achieved;


That’s not green! A lovely mucky grey, but not green. I quite liked it in the scarf, but the trousers were not looking good. I rinsed both off, and after some frantic googling, tried rinsing the trousers with vinegar to try and brighten the colour. It didn’t help. I’m not sure if Google lied, or if the white wine vinegar that was all I had in my cupboard wasn’t the right sort for the job. I lie, I could have used my rice vinegar, or red wine vinegar, or dubiously labeled Chinese vinegar, but the white wine had been around, unused, longest. Why don’t I have normal vinegar?!

Ahem. So, this is my result. Still quite wet, so it will lighten, but I’m fairly sure it’s not going to lighten into anything green.


I’m not sure where I went wrong. Maybe the mordant? I’ve used iron to dye purples before, but not greens. Maybe I should have measured it too, instead of just dumping a glug in and hoping for the best. Maybe it’s my dye tub, it’s aluminium which can blue things a little. Maybe the original colour is showing through? I might try again on the trousers, I’ll have to see how they dry. The scarf looks lovely though, here it is with a similar one for comparison;

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