Natural Dyes: Black Beans

Who would have thought that black bean juice would dye yarn a beautiful shade of blue-grey? I had a really hard time capturing the color of this yarn in a photograph. It’s a little bluer than the photo shows.
I wanted to have a little variation in this yarn, so I tried to make one lighter skein and one darker skein for plying together. This is how I go about winding and preparing the yarn for dyeing. I also used an alum mordant on the wool before dyeing.
Black bean dye is a cold dye, meaning that you let the yarn soak in cold for a long period of time instead of simmering it on the stove. The yarn must also be mordanted to actually absorb and keep the dye, unlike the onion skin dye.
I soaked a bag full of black beans (maybe 3 cups?) in water for 24 hours until the juice was nice and blue. I then prepared two containers of dye, one with just bean juice, and the other with all the beans left at the bottom. I thought that the container with the beans in it would come out a little darker. I then added one skein to each container.
I let the no-beans skein soak for about 12-14 hours, and I let the  beans skein soak for 36 hours. The one I let soak a little longer with the beans turned out a tiny bit darker and grayer, but I was surprised that the difference was so subtle. The closer skein is the shorter soak in the bean juice, and the farther away skein is the longer soak in bean juice with beans still in the container. Although there wasn’t a whole lot of contrast, I think the subtle difference gave the final yarn some nice character.
I can’t stop spinning!! It’s my new addiction!

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