Dyeing green with reed plumes

natural dye yarn reed green

A couple of weeks ago I came across a blog post which described the dyeing of green on wool with the plumes of common reed! How surprised and excited I was, green is not an easy colour to get with natural dyes. You just overdye a yellow with blue or the other way around. So for me that meant an indigo dye pot combined with something like goldenrod or birch leaves.

So off we went looking for flowering reeds!

We take our two youngest boys (2 and almost 1 year old) everywhere we go. Especially now with covid-19 we take them outside for a long walk every day if we can. That means they often have to wait in the stroller for a while when we spot dye material or leaves for printing. They are getting used to it  🙂


The first location where I knew there was growing loads of reed was more in a sunny spot on the edge of a corn field. We went home with a big bag full of plumes and chopped it up for the dye pot. 

Apparently reed needs to be as fresh as possible for dyeing green. I was disappointed.. the dye liquid was a bright yellow colour after an hour of boiling the reed plumes. I put a skein in and it still turned out a beautiful soft yellow!

natural dye reed plumes yarn
natural dye reed plumes


We didn’t give up yet! There was another spot close to our home with reed growing in the shade. We collected some, boiled the plumes for an hour and hurray! A dark brown dye! The skein in this pot turned green fairly quickly. It really was magical!


I’m not sure why the first dye pot turned yellow. Perhaps the reed plumes need to be collected earlier in the season or it had to do something with the soil.

natural dye reed plumes
natural dye reed plumes
natural dye reed plumes

Soo happy with my yarn!! How beautiful is this shade of green! Hopefully we come across another patch of this wonderful plant, or we have to wait until next year.


A few skeins will be in our next shop update.


Pre-mordant your wool or yarn with 10% alum.

Place your chopped fresh reed plumes (only the flowering purple shoots) in a pot with enough water. You will need about equal amounts of plumes to wool. Boil for an hour until the water turns a dark colour, then strain of the liquid.

Let this cool down a bit and in the meantime soak your wool/yarn in water.

Place your wool/yarn in the dye pot and turn the heat back up. Simmer for an hour or until you’re satisfied with the colour! Let the fibres cool down in the dye pot. Rinse in water with a little vinegar.

I always let the skein dry and cure for a few days before washing it.

natural dye reed plumes