Using Spinach Dye for Natural Wool Color

spinach dyeUsing spinach dye to color our natural wool yarn seemed like a good idea. Natural dyes are easy to work with, but a little time consuming. I had spinach growing in the garden, and more in the refrigerator. It was a really hot Sunday afternoon, perfect for staying inside to beat the heat. Put it all together and you have the makings of a great dye experiment.

My beginning efforts with natural dyes was after reading the book , A Garden to Dye For, by Chris McLaughlin. Her ideas for gathering and growing plants, berries, seeds, and bark, boiling them to release the color and using the water for natural dying, was not a new idea. Up until the late 1800’s it was the only way cloth had color to it. It was intriguing and McLaughlin’s book opened my eyes to the possibilities for our naturally raised wool yarn. I was totally inspired and tried a few colors. A couple years later, I tried again. It was an even easier process this time, after having a bit of experience already. My biggest problem is growing enough of any one plant to be able to fill a dye pot. A gardener I am not.

This year our spinach hung on longer than normal. I was about to pull it all our when I had the thought of using it for a pot of dye. Reaching for my dye books, I looked up what Chris McLaughlin had written in her book about spinach. It could be done! I did some more research and found that certain mordants would help set the color and cause it to be more permanent and less transient. Cool! I started a large pot of water boiling on the stove, grabbed the yarn, and got to work.

The color was less than full when I pulled the yarn from the dye to rinse. I had used mordants, vinegar and followed all the steps. Perhaps even my large collection of spinach wasn’t enough. I wasn’t put off though. It is possible to overdye the wool again. The next day I started over. In the photo below you can see a subtle variation in the color. The darker on the left, the middle was the exhaust bath and the right was undyed yarn.

spinach dye

My first spinach dye attempt. Very little color at all.

The thing to remember about all of these natural plant dyes, spinach dye, marigold, and others is that you need a large amount of plant material to achieve a good depth of color. I went back to the garden and grabbed up all the spinach. Sorry ducks and chickens and rabbits. Then I added some spinach we had in the refrigerator.

When using natural dye, you will get color. It may not be the color you thought, however. I remember when I  tried before. It took an amazing amount of marigold flowers to get a slightly pastel yellow. 

Duplicating a color will also be difficult. I suggest you make notes along the way. This will be your best bet of making a similar color in the future.

Boil the spinach in the large pot for about an hour. Then drain out the spinach, saving the green water. If you cook your spinach and the wool at the same time you will be picking spinach bits out of the yarn for awhile. I know this from experience.

Spinach Dye – The Steps I Used

Wet the yarn in a bowl or pan. I used a 150 yard skein and a 125 yard skein of natural color Border Leicester yarn. The total weight was 125 grams. I used the larger skein first and dyed the smaller skein as an exhaust bath dye. 

Pre-mordant the yarn. This will prepare the fiber to take up the dye. Boil 2 quarts of water in a medium nonreactive (not aluminum) pot. Add two teaspoons of alum to a quart of water. Note- most guides to dyeing will tell you to use percentage based on weight of goods. Since I was experimenting, I used teaspoon measurements.

Bring to a boil and simmer. Add the wet yarn to the pot and turn off the heat. Allow to sit in the mordant water for at least an hour. Do not stir or agitate the fiber in the pan, or it could felt. 

What is a mordant? Mordants are usually metal ion substances that enable the dye to be absorbed by the wool fiber. Alum is the most often called for mordant in natural dying. Spinach dye will yield a yellow color in the presence of alum. If you want the yellow to deepen into the green shades, add some rust or iron to the water. I couldn’t find anything rusty when I needed it so I used a tablespoon of iron from the farm first aid kit. It’s fun to try to get the most color from my natural plants as possible. I use alum both in the pre-mordant phase and then add more alum to the dye bath.

While your yarn is soaking in the warm water and alum continue to make your dye.

Making Spinach Dye 

spinach dye

Boil the spinach in a non reactive (non-aluminum) pan. I prefer to use a stainless steel stock pot. Simmer for one hour. Strain the spinach, saving the dye water. I used approximately 6 loosely packed cups of torn spinach.

spinach dye

To the spinach dye water add 1/2 cup of salt, 2 Tbsp of Alum, 2 Tbsp of white vinegar.

(This is my method, devised from trial and error. Other people have somewhat different methods but all will use a mordant and something to adjust the color if desired.)

Add the pre-mordanted fiber to the spinach dye. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for one hour. Cover the pan so the water doesn’t evaporate!

Add a tablespoon of iron to adjust the color to green. It won’t be a dark green. Caution! Don’t try to darken it too much by adding lots more iron. What you will do with that idea, is weaken the fiber of the yarn. 

From this technique I received a celery green color. The second or residual dye gave another small skein of yarn a dark cream color. This is called the exhaust bath, because it uses up the remaining color.

spinach dye

spinach dye

left- spinach dye
middle – exhaust dye
right – undyed

What are my lessons from trying to dye with spinach? 

This uses a lot of spinach. Next time I will buy cheap frozen spinach from the store and save the good spinach for my salad!

The color will still be muted and soft

In order to dye a large amount of yarn, a great deal of spinach would be needed. 

I need to keep experimenting with the natural colors from plants.

Have you tried making any natural dyes? How did the color work out for you?


spinach dye


Check out our yarn collection in the shop 
simple scarf pattern

Timber Creek Farm Handmade Shop


Container Gardens for Fall and Winter Indoor Growing

container gardensIndoor container gardens are the perfect way to extend the growing season for some of your favorite edible herbs and greens. Now is the time to begin planning or planting a container garden that can be brought inside before the first frost. Recently, I planted a couple of small gardens that I plan to carry into the house. Right now it is 100 degrees in the shade and plenty humid but planning ahead for the fall growing season is a must.

What to Plant in a Container Garden

I have a handful of favorite herbs that I like to have growing fresh all year long. The rest of my herb container gardens spend the winter on our unheated glassed in porch. There, they are protected from the harshest of conditions, yet still go into a dormant, restful time. As the weather starts to cool to near freezing, I either carry the whole container inside or split the plant and bring small pots of certain larger herbs plants inside for winter. This has worked well for me the last few years. If I need a few mint leaves I can open the porch door and grab a few from the sleeping plant. No new leaves are being produced but I can still use the ones that are there.

Planting Decorative Container Gardens

The first garden I put together doesn’t contain any edible plants. I actually was shopping at one of my favorite local garden centers and they had small terrarium or mini garden plants on sale. My collection of garden miniatures now being covered by the overgrown herb garden could be add to a new dish garden. My collection of  enamel ware from flea market sales and would be a perfect basin to use for the garden. I purchased a few plants. When I got home, I decide to add my bonsai tree to the garden too. It adds some height to the landscape. 

Gather the Supplies

The first step to the mini container garden construction is to gather the items for the garden. 

container gardens

In this container garden I used miniature terrarium or houseplants. It serves the purpose of a creative little garden that is fun to look at. My grandchildren love to find the miniature world hiding in the garden.

container gardens

Place a layer of stone in the bottom of your container gardens for good drainage. Add the potting soil and I also added some perlite to the soil for extra air and drainage. Container gardens have the tendency to compact and become soggy. Adding the perlite will keep the soil from clumping together.

container gardens

Planting the Garden

I planted the tiny plants around the basin. I left the bonsai tree planted in it’s own pot. If it doesn’t do well as part of the garden, I can pull it out and move it to a better location. I am actually so surprised that I have kept this tree alive for three years. 

container gardens

The Finishing Touches

Once I had the plants where I liked them, I took a sheet of moss that I purchased at the garden center. Soak the moss and then pull pieces of it and arrange around the garden. Not only does it look pretty, it serves to keep moisture in the soil longer.

container gardens

Finally, the real fun begins. Place your decorations and miniatures around their garden world. I prefer to tuck mine into little vignettes. 

container gardens

I have always been a kid at heart and I hope I never lose that sense of fun and whimsy. 



Planting an Indoor Herbal Food Garden

For a more usable style of container garden, plant culinary and medicinal herbs. The second container garden has five of my favorite herbs to use during the winter. 

Thyme– for colds, and respiratory infections, including cough suppression. Brew in a tea or make an infusion using vodka or coconut oil

Oregano– great immunity boosting herb. I use it in cooking mostly. You can use it fresh or dried. It’s great to have on hand for any chickens or animals that get sick or sniffly during the winter too. Both Oregano and Thyme are good for supplementing immune systems, digestive tracts and respiratory systems.

Mint– A delicious herb to use in cooking, for flavor and garnish. Mint can be used for freshening and cleaning. Add some to a spray bottle of vinegar or vodka is a natural counter top cleaning spray. In the fall, mint spray will help deter pests from seeking shelter in your house as the nights get chilly. 

Parsley – Used for flavor in many recipes. Also used as a garnish on food. The leaves are full of nutrition and Parsley is a good green to take to the chickens when they need some fresh greens.

Lavender– Mostly I plant Lavender because I love Lavender. It grows well in pots with other herbs,  When it flowers I snip off the stem and dry the stalk to add to my wool storage. Lavender repels pests and insects that might hide in my yarn inventory and damage the skeins of yarn. Add Lavender to sugar for a different flavor. It is delicious added to baked goods, too.

You can learn more about many herbs and their properties for health and healing in this post with printable charts.

container gardens

Of course I had to add some miniature vignette scenes to this container garden too. This is going to be my indoor herb garden this winter, while the majority of my fresh herbs will be allowed to go dormant or die out during the winter. These two container gardens are ready to come inside when ever the frost date gets near. Until then they will stay outside, enjoying the late summer sun and humidity.

Watering Container Gardens

I find the watering the hardest part of growing in container gardens. When the weather is hot and the garden is sitting in the sun, the container dries out much faster than I would expect. When inside, where the heat and humidity are easier to control, the gardens seem to need much less water.

Of course this is what you would expect but how do you know when to water? I use the good old fashioned method of sticking my finger a few inches into the soil. If it feels dry, I water the garden! If it feels moist I might spray with a spray bottle. Roots can rot in improperly drained soil, so try not to over water and end up with soggy soil. If possible, set the garden in the sun to dry and do not water until the soil feels dry again. It is a bit of a game trying to get the watering amount just right.

What do you grow indoors in container gardens during the winter?


container gardens 

Easy Patriotic Decor And Treats

easy patriotic decorDo you need ideas for easy patriotic decor? When Summer arrives we often decorate our homes and yards with easy patriotic decor to brighten up the table. Decorating with American flags, red, white and blue and stars, is a fun way to show our patriotic spirit. Red, white and blue decor is often associated with a 4th of July picnic. Some decor is easy to make on your own. To help inspire you to grab the craft tools, wood working tools and paints, I gathered together a few awesome blog posts from my friends websites. If you have a good idea for easy patriotic decor, I invite you to share it with us in the comments section! And, because red, white and blue also works in desserts, there are some yummy dessert ideas here too. After all, we don’t survive on paint and hot glue alone!

Enjoy the annual celebration of our country’s independence. Be safe, use fireworks responsibly and talk to your children about how our country was started. No matter what current events show, America is a great nation, founded by strong principles. Let’s celebrate!

Easy Patriotic Decor – Use a Pallet

Pallets and pallet crafts are popping up literally everywhere. I used a pallet in good condition to make this easy patriotic decor replica American flag. It worked up easily with craft paint. The flag has sat out in the weather now for a few years on our farmyard. The weathering only makes it better. Read more about the painting project here.

Easy patriotic decor

The American Flag Pallet has been used many times for photo shoots as a backdrop.

Easy Patriotic Decor

Wreaths are Easy Patriotic Decor 

A Farm Girl in the Making designed a beautiful patriotic themed wreath. The materials are easy to obtain and you still have time to craft your own before the Fourth of July celebration. In the blog post she shows you how to make a variation of the original too!

easy patriotic decor

Patriotic 5 Minute T-Shirt! from Schniederpeeps  

This easy patriotic decor T-shirt idea can be pulled together the night before the big parade or picnic! All you need are a few household items and the t-shirt and paint. Easy! 

easy patriotic decor

Follow the easy instructions on Schneiderpeeps blog and have this shirt ready in a jiffy!

Patriotic Decor from a Box of Scraps!

Lovely flag motif from a box of scraps? A Farm Girl in the Making show you how in this tutorial.

easy patriotic decor

This beautiful flag wall hanging was also made by A Farmgirl in the Making. Following the tutorial on her blog will have you hanging a similar decoration in very little time. She was inspired after purchasing a box of odds and ends of vintage lace. What will inspire you?


Bring on the Desserts!

After celebrating with parades, games, water fun, and hamburgers, enjoy this dessert from Common Sense Homesteading.  A red, white and blue cake is perfect to take to the neighborhood potluck, or a family get together. The result looks complicated but the directions are easy!

easy patriotic decor


Finger food is fun and The Farmer’s Wife from Grace Garden and Homestead came up with this really clever idea. Take some jumbo strawberries and no bake cheesecake filling. The strawberry cheesecake is actually IN the strawberry! Talk about convenient finger food! Plus, this is a great dessert idea for the younger members of the party and The Farmer’s Wife tells you why in the blog post with the recipe.

easy patriotic decor

Easy Patriotic Decor

photo credit Brittany May – Happy Days Farm

Lastly, I want to thank Happy Days Farm for allowing me to use this very patriotic photo of their rooster, Chachi. Obviously he has the American Spirit!

Want to save all this goodness for later? Pin this image to your pinterest board

easy patriotic decor

Shipping Hatching Eggs (For the First Time)


Shipping Hatching Eggs Shipping hatching eggs is very easy. Follow the steps below for an easy to follow method. Last year we hatched out three batches of chicks and ducks from our flocks, so I know we have a fairly good fertility rate. I don’t intend to get into the hatching egg business for a few reasons. One, I don’t separate my breeds of chickens so the offspring are mutts. Second,  I have enough to do already! But for the person just looking to hatch out some egg layers for their family or chickens for the table, I  am happy to help. The same day that I  shipped the eggs I was contacted by a  local man looking for hatching eggs to use in his incubator. He and his great granddaughter are planning a chicken project together! I thought that was amazing so of course I provided eggs to him, too. I hope to get lots of feedback from both people about the hatch rate and rooster rate!

I sought some instruction on how to ship the eggs  through the mail. Of course I started with a google search. One site in particular recommended not using bubble wrap. Since I am not a big fan of plastic, I liked this approach. Unfortunately I cannot find the link now to share with you, but the pictures below are pretty much exactly what they showed in their video. There are many sources out there if you type in “shipping hatching eggs” in the search bar. 


Choose clean, normal looking eggs

Choose clean, normal looking eggs

 When Shipping Hatching Eggs, Choose the Best Eggs from the Nest 

Step 1.  Collect only the best looking eggs for use as hatching eggs. Do not use eggs with mud or feces on them. Check the shells for irregularities and try to only use egg shaped eggs! NEVER WASH EGGS FOR HATCHING!

DSC_4631 DSC_4630

Step 2. Gather your supplies. I used a medium flat rate box for the inner box in my shipping package. A second box, slightly larger, will be needed to place the smaller box in for shipping.

I also used packing tape, paper napkins, (cheap, thin type), egg cartons cut in half, and newspaper for cushioning.

DSC_4634 DSC_4635

Step 3. Cut the egg carton into two pieces, each piece having 6 egg spaces. Pick up a napkin and then place the egg into the napkin. Place the napkin and egg into the egg space in the carton with the wide end of the egg up. Seat the egg all the way into the space, without being too rough and breaking the egg.

Shipping hatching eggs

Add crumpled newsprint to the shipping box

 Step 4. After the half carton is filled, I wrapped it in plain paper and secured it with the packing tape. 

Fill the shipping box about half full of crumpled newspaper. Place the egg cartons into the box, nestling them into the cushioning. I was able to fit three half cartons into the medium sized priority mailing box.

Add more crumpled newspaper to cushion and fill the empty space but do not make it packed so tightly that the eggs are broken from overfilling the box. Don’t forget to add some newspaper to the top before sealing the box.


Step 5. (not pictured). Place your box inside another slightly larger cardboard box with newspaper crumpled inside for more cushioning. Seal the exterior box. Attach the shipping address label. On the outside of the box  write “hatching eggs, please do not x-ray” . I wrote this on all sides. 

Shipping Hatching Eggs through the USPS 

At the post office the box was weighed and Fragile was stamped on the box. 

I chose to use the priority shipping rate from the USPS. There was no particular reason for using USPS except that the post office is nearby. Use a fast shipping time for optimal hatch rate. When shipping hatching eggs, keep in mind that the more an egg ages the less likely it is to hatch successfully. For best results, gather the eggs from the nests and have them shipped within a couple of days. I have had some success with eggs held longer, but the fresher the better.


The eggs arrived in perfect shape! No damage, no cracks, all perfectly wrapped like when they left my house. I am very glad this method worked.

shipping hatching eggs






Dyeing Wool with Natural Plant Dyes

Learning to Use Nature for Dyeing Wool 

Dyeing wool with plant dyesDSC_5286After years of producing yarn from our home grown wool, I reviewed  A Garden to Dye For, by Chris McLaughlin and I was thrilled to dive into the world of naturally  dyeing wool. ( Click on this link if you want to read my review on Amazon.)

We raise our own fiber animals on the farm and send the raw fleeces to a local mill to be processed and spun into yarn. A goal of mine has been to start dyeing wool  and yarns to add to our shop. I dream of offering all naturally dyed yarn and fiber to complement our natural color, home grown wools.

Dying woolDSC_0334 dying wool


It did take me quite awhile to gather plants and flowers and actually begin dying wool. But, once I got going, I was hooked! I started looking at all the plants around me in a new way. Could I harvest that color from that flower? Would that green leaf produce green or some other color?

IMG_0347[1] dying wool

Dying wool

In the book, A Garden to Dye For, Chris Mclaughlin takes you step by step through the process, all the while keeping in mind that this is a creative process. From the planting of a dyers garden, gathering the correct equipment, the pre-dyeing and dyeing process is all there at your fingertips. The book is not a science manual but, rather speaks to your creative side.

While I was creating color, I noticed that one small step to either side can change the color both subtly and significantly. Adding a modifier such as washing soda, or vinegar, can change the PH and the color. Also, the color you see in the plant or vegetable, may not even remotely be the color of the dye you end up with.

Another important point to remember is that the color you receive one day from a particular plant, may vary greatly from the color you develop next time. Dyeing wool in enough quantity for one particular project ensures that you have enough of the dye lot.

DSC_5279 dying wool
Above photo is two separate dye baths using marigold flowers.

So, with the book by my side, I began to experiment. Here are the results of a few different skeins of yarn made colorful with natural garden dyes.

Keep in mind that I was dyeing sample skeins of yarn, approximately 20 yards in length. Adjust the measurements accordingly.

Red Onion Skin
Result – Amber/Brown


Remove the skin from a red onion. Simmer the skins in 6 cups of water for approximately 30 minutes. Onions are a natural mordant, with the tannins, so the yarn does not need to be pre mordanted.

Soak the yarn so that it is soaked through. Add the wet yarn to the dye bath and continue to simmer the yarn until the color is developed enough. Rinse the yarn in lukewarm water, do not rinse in cold water as shocking the fiber can result in felting.




Dry completely.

result: Pale yellow to orange range

1/2 cup of marigold blossoms.
6 cups of water
begin to warm the mixture in a pan.


Mordant for the yarn- 1/2 teaspoon alum and 1/2 teaspoon cream of tarter in 8 cups of warm water. Add the yarn to the water bath and slowly bring to a boil. Simmer for one hour making sure the pan does not run out of water. If the water starts to get low, add some additional warm water
Using a long handled wooden spoon, lift the yarn from the bath and let it drain back into the pan.

Immediately add the yarn to the dye bath. Warm the water and keep the dye bath warm for as long as needed for developing the color.

Madder Root
Result: Deep reds

DSC_5281 dying wool

Madder does not naturally grow in my area. I think you can find some seeds to plant and maybe have it in your garden but I was a bit impatient and ordered some dry madder dye from Dharma Trading

Use yarn that has been mordanted. If the fiber has dried, re wet before placing in the dye bath.
I loved the deep red color that madder produces. After dyeing, rinse in warm water until water is clear.

Just for fun, I also tried some other things we had available. The roses in the side yard are deep pink. They look like there would be plenty of color available, so I gathered two cups of rose petals. I boiled them, and after straining off the dye liquid, I placed a sample skein into the dye. I was a bit surprised to find that the color that developed was more of a brown. I tried to vary the color by adding some washing soda but it just became more of a brown. that’s the fun of experimenting with gardens and dying. You never really know what you might get!

Another note: try to take good notes while you work. I thought I had but I now have this beautiful shade of amber/orange and no idea how I got it. I do remember using a modifier on a brown result but that is as far as my memory goes with it. So here it is. DSC_5285

I am working on creating a pallet of sample colors, all the while, keeping in mind that the color will vary based on many factors. This is truly a creative process that should be enjoyed. Gather some samples from your garden, your woods, or ask a friend for some materials from their yard. Before long, I am sure you will be hooked on natural dyeing wool, too. Pick up your copy of A Garden to Dye For


dyeing wool

Other helpful resources:

A Weaver’s Garden by Rita Buchanan
Harvesting Color, How to Find Plants and Make Natural Dyes by Rebecca Burgess

This post may contain affiliate links which won’t change your price but will share some commission.

Featured on

Manic Mother