When I decided to move the rhubarb patch in my garden, I also decided it was a good time to try dyeing with rhubarb roots. It was a bit of a hassle and I did not get the results I wanted, but that seems to be beside the point when it comes to dyeing with natural materials.
One surprise was this black gunky stuff on the roots. Or I should say, at one end of the roots, as I eventually figured out it was the crown of the plant. (My pix of it came out blurry or I would show you what it looked like.) I chopped up enough root for my dye bath, and then some more, to dry. I chopped until my wrists gave out.
Again, I relied on Jenny Dean's book Wild Color. The yarn this time was a skein of Happy Feet Dye for Me (90% merino, 10% nylon) fingering weight, divided into five mini skeins. The idea was to apply an alkaline modifier to produce a range of colors on the red side. I used ammonia for the modifier, which is strong enough to change litmus paper to its most alkaline color with just fumes. That should have been a clue that my goal was not going to be achieved.
I wish I had saved a skein so you could see what the color looked like before the afterbath. The ammonia altered the color but did not turn it as rosy as I had hoped, and all five skeins are basically alike. It's not a bad color, but again, I was hoping for a range of colors. I may overdye this yarn.
Now that I have tried my dyeing hand several times and with different materials, I am becoming more comfortable with the whole process. Part of me would really like to work in a more controlled and scientific way, but another part of me likes to be surprised by the outcome. Either way, there are no failures, just lessons learned.