Indian Corn Accident Becomes a Lovely Ball of Yarn!


I am pretty excited about this ball of yarn - because I dyed it myself - using, believe it or not, deep purple Indian Corn husks! And no dangerous mordants!


You remember these soaking buckets from the Indian Corn Wreath post? I soaked all my Indian Corn for just a minute or so in hot water, just long enough to soften the husks so I could work with them easily.

Three or four of the ears had very dark purple husks. And when I removed them from the bucket, I was surprised to see how dark purple the soaking water (and my hands) had turned. Four ears - in just a minute or so!


Just look at that water!!

I was making quite a mess so I grabbed a little rag to clean up - just in case it would stain. The rag accidentally fell into the bucket and was instantly dyed purple!

So of course, my brain waves went into overdrive and I ran for my camera!

If one of my blogging buddies can dye yarn with kool-aid (here and here), why can't I dye yarn with Indian Corn juicy juice!

After all, the American Indians have been dying their own hand spun wool for centuries with plant materials growing in the wild. And I am fairly certain, in the beginning, they did not employ toxic materials like tin or copper (mordants) to set the dyes.

So I decided not to pour my beautiful dark purple soaking water down the drain and try to dye some yarn instead!

I happened to have a small skein of pure white Cascade Yarns 100% Peruvian Highland Wool I had picked up for a little weaving project.

I poured the dark purple dye into a stainless steel pot, heated it up to boiling, and added at least a cup of vinegar. Then I opened my skein of yarn and, leaving the little ties in place, placed it in the water,  let it very gently simmer for about half an hour, turned off the heat and let it sit to cool.

I had planned on removing it in an hour or so and started working on the wreaths, completely forgetting all about the yarn!  It sat in the dye bath over night!


Maybe that was a good thing - because, when I took the lid off the pot the next morning and peeked in - all of the color had totally disappeared from the dye bath. It was completely clear!

Which means - all of the color was in my yarn!

I placed the skein into a large basin of water to rinse, fully expecting to see the color drain out of my yarn. But as you can see above, that did not happen!


A recent post I remembered, showed dyed yarn left to dry pretty much as you see above. But after about 20 minutes, I got concerned my wool might stretch from the weight of the water still in the fibers, so I laid it out on a couple wire racks, turning it every hour or so until it dried completely!

Can you tell I am excited? I don't know what I am going to make just yet as I only have 220 yards - maybe a small cowl?

If you can get your hands on some lovely, dark purple Indian Corn husks this fall, why not let the kids try their hand at dying some fabric or yarn.  Just be sure to wear gloves and old clothing because this stuff stains!

Hi, I grew some indian corn

Hi, I grew some indian corn here in thePNW and was wondering if the beautiful colors of the husks and cobs might dye some yarn, so I'm happy to come across this blog! I think I might try using some mordant first just to see if it will take a deeper color. The husks are so beautiful, would love to find a use for them.

Pam, OMG. I'm not kidding.

Pam, OMG. I'm not kidding. You are always open to your muse, aren't you? This is stunning.

That is amazing! I would

That is amazing! I would never have guessed you would wake up with clear water! I love using all natural dyes, how clever you are! Seriously, so cool!

I love that color, it is so

I love that color, it is so pretty. I wonder if it would dye eggs for easter, more naturally that is. On pictures it looks like a dusty rose color... beautiful

Great post Pam. It is a fab

Great post Pam. It is a fab colour! I've always been interested in dyeing with natural materials but always thought that the colour wouldn't take or last without some kind of mordant. So does the vinegar act as a mordant, of sorts?? Would be very interested to know. I could use this for my fabrics and laces in my creations if it could be successful. I was thinking the other day that I might experiment with beetroot juice from the can, and given that it has vinegar in it, maybe it would be a permanent colour!?
Suppose I could have just googled it, but it's a subject I never think about until I read about it somewhere. ;)

Great questions, Pam.   And I

Great questions, Pam.   And I wish I had all the answers on this subject!

First off - why don't you hold off on using the corn husk dye in your beautiful creations until I see if mine continues to hold the color.  From all I have been able to read so far, natural dyes applied without first treating the fabric or yarn with a mordant tend to fad over time.  I understand Alum is the least toxic of the mordants so if I find that my yarn loses it's color, I will possibly give the alum a try.  The very fact that there was no color left in the dye bath the next morning, however, and none lost in the washing processw has given me hope!!!

Vinegar?  Not a mordant.  It is often used to set the dye after the dying process - added to the rinse water.  But several gals on the internet, who are introducing their children to natural dyes, have suggested using the vinegar to help set the color.

I have had no experience with the beet root juice you mentioned.  But it never hurts to try.  In dying fabrics with juice derived from cooking beats, I found that the color actually washes out quite easily!  I was surprised by that.  Wasn't much good for dying eggs either!

The links in the post should give you more information about dying with natural dyes using mordants. 

Having tried dying fabrics with natural dyes made from edible plants with not so great results, I wouldn't have even tried this had it not been for how quickly and deeply the husks colored the water - and my hands! 

Love the color of your new

Love the color of your new yarn. I'm not surprised about your happy little accident (dropping the rag in the water) but what is amazing to me is that the water was clear the next day. I think I would have to get more husks just so I could do it again.

Robin, if we actually get to

Robin, if we actually get to harvest Indian Corn this year in the PNW, I plan to try - with an even stronger solution!  This was a very weak solution to my way of thinking - a few husks soaked in a gallon of water for only a minute or so.  The intensity of the color in the water and how quickly it stained the rag - and my hands, inspired me to try dying the yarn.  But I really do want to attempt a stronger solution. 

It really did freak me out when I looked into the pot of water that was dark purple red the prior afternoon and there was no color there.  I couldn't believe my eyes!

Such a beautiful and happy

Such a beautiful and happy accident! Looking forward to seeing what you'll make with the yarn - it will be gorgeous, I bet.

Two unrelated craft projects

Two unrelated craft projects from one set of materials. Very frugal! I love the soft color you got. This set of projects moves to the top of the "try this list" if I come across any purple husked corn.

Wow -- That is awesome! I've

Wow -- That is awesome! I've read about natural dyestuffs but never heard of Indian corn. What a happy accident!

Pam what a gorgeous colour

Pam what a gorgeous colour you've made serendipitously, the best way I think! How fantastic. A beautiful plant makes such a stunning colour. It looks like a similar shade to the colour I got by dying with blackberries a couple of weeks ago. My experiment didn't work because I thought the very strong colour I got was strong enough to be put in the washing machine - I was wrong!

I can't wait to see what you make with your own dyed wool - fabulous!

Happy Tuesday to you,