Natural dyeing in Iceland

After our trip to IsTex, we headed to Guðrún Bjarnadóttir’s home where she talked to us about her natural dyeing process. Guðrún is a biology teacher by day and dyes yarn as a hobby, or so she claims. She focuses on using plants and lichen that are available in Iceland. She does use some materials like indigo and cochineal which were historically for dyeing in Iceland, but she enjoys using local plants the most. Here she is showing different types of lichen that she’s gathered.

Guðrún Bjarnadóttir

Here are some of her dye ingredients. Spring has just started, so her materials are still dry from the winter.

Dye plants

She had a lot of yarn brewing in her dye pots where she puts the yarn in directly with the vegetable matter.

Dye pot

Dye pot

The demo included showing us how ammonium enhances color. The skein on the left was dipped in ammonia for just a few minutes while the one behind on the right was not. You can see a definite color change.

Ammonium vs not

Seems like she’s been doing a lot of dyeing for just a hobby. This is the yarn that greeted us in her living room!

Welcome couch


Hespa yarn

I may have picked up some yarn and balled it right away to start knitting. The red is dyed with madder root. The yellow and green are both dyed with lupines. The beige is dyed with lichen. And the cream (which has a faint yellow tint) is dyed with daisies.

Hespa yarn

Besides the fabulous dyeing and yarn, the place was beautifully decorated with many textile-related items, including this antique knitting machine.

Guðrún's machine

Also the view from Guðrún’s house was AMAZING. Her view was better, but this was the shot I got around the corner.


AND, she lives by a small farm with sheep and horses! These poor guys were scared of us and huddled to the other end.


These sheep were very friendly and eager to come forward to munch on food. You can see that they’ve just been shorn. Icelandic sheep roam free through the country in the summer and are gathered in the fall where they remain inside throughout the winter. They are shorn twice a year.


And here’s the first Icelandic horse I got up close to. They’re so cute and small and adorable.


I love this place!

7 Responses to “Natural dyeing in Iceland”

  1. Frances says:

    I LOVE the natural dyes. Her colors are more saturated than many that I have seen.

  2. Brandi says:

    I will have to try using some ammonia. I’ve only ever mordanted with alum. I try to use what grows on my 4.5 acre property.

  3. Teenuh says:

    Ooh pretty! That would have been a fun visit! I totally would have bought some (ok, a lot) of her yarn! 🙂

  4. Lynn says:

    Absolutely beautiful!

  5. Kei says:

    Those colors are BEAUTIFUL.

  6. Patt Ward says:

    I am saving up my money! I hope to go yo Iceland for the next tour. What beautiful yarns!

  7. Rani says:

    The colors are so vivid for natural dyes.

    ps. Bravo for referring to them as HORSES and not as PONIES. My relatives don’t take kindly to the latter. The sheep used to live in the bottom of the house in the winter and that would help to keep the family warm upstairs.