Using Natures Dyes

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Organic dyes, a primitive but cleaner, economical approach used in the dying of fibers.

Tired of forking out money for miniscule amounts of chemical dyes, I did a lot of research and put my hand to the good old use of recycling mother natures bounty.

Why not try for yourself the creative reuse of materials and fibers, experiment with the dyes that can be gotten from the non-savory parts of plants (since those would just be tossed if not put to interesting use).

       Take avocado pits, for instance. an avocado pit
       will produce anything from a pale mauve to a deep grey.

  • Nettles, fig and fava leaves produce a light green to a subtle brown
  • Combinations can also produce unique colors such as avocado and blackberry's, they will create a purple to deep blue depending on the ratio.
  • Elderberry's would give a more mauve coloring
  • Rhubarb a rich yellow to orange
  • The Woad plant will extract many different hues of blues
  • Tea bags, my old time favorite! Perfect for that vintage look I soak anything from fabrics to lace and it never fails to give that authentic " aged" look and these are just to name a few...

Be mindful and research what you are using as most of the above would require a fixative or a mordant (allows dye molecules to bind to fiber) some of which contain toxins, so do not use dye pots or utensils for any other purpose and protect yourself from potentially toxic fumes by covering all pots with lids and by working in a well ventilated area, preferably outdoors.

A mordant: Mor·dant (môr'dnt) comes from the French, meaning "to bite." , it is a substance used to permanently bond dyes on fabrics or create a chemical reaction to create new colors, Mordants can be applied to the fiber before dyeing, at the same time as dyeing, or after dyeing. Many say that better colors can be attained when mordanting at the same time as dyeing.
  • Alum:  An acid mordant, translucent crystalline water-soluble element, 3.2 pH; used earlier than 2000 BCE, found near sulfur springs, in salt mines, and in 250+ plants (alum-root (Heuchera) contains tannin not alum) Best used on wool and silk it attracts moisture from the air, used as a dye fixative and a  color brightener. A pinch of alum makes color flow, too much alum may make the fibers harsh and sticky. It has been said that hanging wet alumed wool in the dark for 3 days helps to make it accept dyes better. Rinse the fibers thoroughly so unfixed alum won't affect the dye results'
  • Sodium chloride: (table salt) and plenty of it as the more you use the better, it particularly helps to intensify colors.Keep in mind that salt is actually toxic and as little as two tablespoons can be lethal for a child.
  • Vinegar: Used as a mordant or a rinse and when used with lemon juice is known to intensify reds, yellows and blues
  • Certain metal salts like iron, copper and tin.
  • Soda ash: Sodium carbonate (also known as washing soda, and soda crystals), Na2CO3 odorless and alkaline tasting It can be extracted from the ashes of many plants growing in sodium-rich soils, works particularly well with cotton and should be treated with caution as the soda ash solution is mildly caustic - it can irritate your skin. Wear gloves and eye protection. Rinse off at once to avoid eye and skin irritation.
  • Acorns, as when boiled the skins produce a tannic acid perfect for the fixture of natures fibers! 

Look up an exciting weblog by the "Ecologicalartists" on ..It will show you a helpful guide to the safe processing of the acorn.

Here I have a compiled a list to help you along and surprisingly you may only just have to look in your own back yard!

Shades of YELLOW to ORANGE

- Alder (Alnus rubra) (Bark)- orange - Barberry (mahonia sp.) yellow orange (with alum) very strong & permanent. Any part of the plant will work. - Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) (root when cut open)- will give a good orange to reddish orange color. - Butternut Tree (Juglans cinerea) – (bark, seed husks) – light yelllow-orange - Carrot (Daucus carota) – (roots) – orange - Eucalyptus – (all parts, leaves and bark) beautiful shades of tan, deep rust red, yellow, green, orange and chocolate brown. - Giant Coreopsis (Coreopsis gigantea) Yields bright permanent orange with alum. - Lichen (orchella weed) (Roccellaceae) – gold, purple, red - Lilac (Syringa vulgaris) (twigs) – yellow/orange - Onion (Allium cepa) (skin) – orange - Pomegranate (skins)– with alum anywhere from orange to khaki green. - Sassafras (leaves) - Turmeric (Curcuma longa) dyed cloth will turn orange or red if it is dipped in lye. ________________________________________________________________________________________   Shades of BROWN ________________________________________________________________________________________ - Acorns (boiled) - Amur Maple (Acer Ginnala) – black, blue, brown from dried leaves. - Beetroot -Dark Brown with FeSO4 - Birch (bark) – Light brown/ buff – Alum to set - Broom - (bark) – yellow/brown - Broom Sedge – golden yellow and brown – Butternut Tree (Juglans cinerea) - (bark) -dark brown – boil the bark down to concentrated form - Coffee Grinds - Colorado Fir - (bark) – tan - Coneflower (flowers) – brownish green ; leaves and stems – gold - Dandelion (roots) brown - Fennel – (flowers, leaves) – yellow/brown - Goldenrod (shoots ) – deep brown - Hollyhock (petals) - Ivy - (twigs) – yellow/brown - Juniper Berries - Maple Trees (Red Leaf Buds) – red-brown color when dried. Found on branches before new leaves appear only present during early spring and throughout fall. - Oak bark will give a tan or oak color. - Oregano – (Dried stalk) – Deep brown- Black - Pine Tree Bark – light medium brown. Needs no mordant. - St John’s Wort (blossom) – brown - Sumac (leaves) – tan - Tea Bags – light brown, tan - Walnut (hulls) – deep brown (wear gloves) - Walnut (husks) – deep brown – black - White Birch - (inner bark) – brown - White Maple (bark) – Light brown/ buff – Alum to set - Wild plum root will give a reddish or rusty brown. - Yellow dock (shades of brown) ________________________________________________________________________________________

Shades of PINK ________________________________________________________________________________________ - Strawberries - Avocado from skin and seed – a light pink hue. - Cherries - Raspberries (red) - Roses and Lavender, with a little mint and some lemon juice to activate the alkaloids can make both a brilliant pink dye and a very tasty pink lemonade. - Lichens – A pink, brown, or wine colored dye can be produced from a lichen known as British soldiers. - Camilla -It’s a nice pink-magenta. With lemon and salt. - Grand Fir -(bark) pink ________________________________________________________________________________________ Shades of BLUE- PURPLE ________________________________________________________________________________________ - Dogwood (bark) – blue - Red cabbage - Woad (first year leaves). Woad gives a pale to mid blue colour depending on the type of fabric and the amount of woad used. - Mulberries (royal purple) - Elderberries (lavender) - Saffron - (petals) blue/green - Grapes (purple) - Blueberries - Cornflower - (petals) blue dye with alum, water - Cherry (roots) - Blackberry (fruit) strong purple - Hyacinth – (flowers) – blue - Japanese indigo (deep blue) - Indigo (leaves) – blue - Red Cedar Root (purple) - Raspberry -(fruit) purple/blue - Red Maple Tree (purple)(inner bark) - Nearly Black Iris – (dark bluish purple) alum mordant - Dogwood - (fruit) greenish-blue - Oregon Grape -(fruit) blue/purple - Purple Iris - blue - Sweetgum (bark) – purple / black - Queen Anne’s Lace ________________________________________________________________________________________ Shades of RED – BROWN ________________________________________________________________________________________ - Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) (root) – red - Elderberry – red - Whole (or the peel of) pomegranates – Between purple-red to pink from fresh pomegranates, and a brown color from very overripe (beginning to rot) pomegranates. - Red leaves will give a reddish brown color I use salt to set the dye. - Sumac (fruit) – light red - Sycamore (bark)- red - Dandelion (root) - Beets – deep red - Bamboo – turkey red - Crab Apple - (bark) – red/yellow - Rose (hips) - Chokecherries - Madder (root) – red - Hibiscus Flowers (dried) - Kool-aid - Canadian Hemlock – (bark) reddish brown - Japanese Yew - (heartwood) – brown dye - Wild ripe Blackberries - Brazilwood - St. John’s Wort – (whole plant) soaked in alcohol – red - Bedstraw (Galium triflorum) (root) – red ________________________________________________________________________________________ Shades of GRAY-BLACK ________________________________________________________________________________________ - Iris (roots) - Sumac (leaves) (Black) - Meadowsweet makes an amazing black dye. - Blackberry - Butternut Hulls - Carob pod (boiled) will give a gray to cotton - Oak galls - makes a good black dye. - Sawthorn Oak - (seed cups) – black - Walnut (hull) – black - Rusty nails & vinegar – set with Alum ________________________________________________________________________________________ Shades of RED – PURPLE ____________________________________________________________________________________ - Pokeweed (berries) - Hibiscus (flowers, dark red or purple ones) – red-purple. - Daylilies (old blooms) - Safflower – (flowers, soaked in alcohol) – red - Logwood (is a good purple but you have to watch it as it dyes quick when the pot is fresh. Also it exhausts fast. We use alum to mordant and using iron can give you logwood gray.) - Huckleberry - lavender (can use it for dye and also for ink.) - Portulaca – (flowers, dried and crushed to a powder) use with a vinegar orsalt mordant, can produce strong magentas, reds, scarlets, oranges and yellows (depending upon the color of the flower)-
Beluga Black Lentils - soaked in water overnight .. yield a dark purplish / black water. The color is washfast and lightfast and needs NO MORDANT and it lasts – a beautiful milk chocolate brown (when super thick) … to a lighter medium brown or light brown when watered down. - Dark Hollyhock (petals) – mauve - Basil – purplish grey ________________________________________________________________________________________ Shades of GREEN ____________________________________________________________________________________ - Artemisia species provide a range of greens from baby’s breath to nettle green. - Artichokes - Tea Tree – (flowers) green/black - Spinach (leaves) - Sorrel (roots) – dark green - Foxglove - (flowers) apple green - Lilac - (flowers) – green - Camellia - (pink, red petals) – green - Snapdragon - (flowers) – green - Black-Eyed Susans - Grass (yellow green) - Pigsweed (entire plant) yellow green - Red Pine (needles) green - Nettle - Broom – (stem) green - Larkspur - green – alum - Plantain Roots - White Ash - (bark) – yellow - Purple Milkweed - (flowers & leaves) – green - Lily-of-the-valley (light green) be careful what you do with the spent dye bath. The plant is toxic so try to avoid pouring it down the drain into the water supply. - Barberry root (wool was dyed a greenish bronze-gold) - Red onion (skin) (a medium green, lighter than forest green) - Yarrow - (flowers) yellow & green shades - Mulga Acacia - (seed pods) – green - Peach - (leaves) yellow/green - Coneflower (flowers) – green - Peppermint - dark kakhi green color - Peony (flowers) - pale lime green - Queen Anne’s Lace – pale green - Black-Eyed Susans - bright olive/apple green - Hydrangea (flowers) – alum mordant, added some copper and it came out a beautiful celery green - Chamomile (leaves) – green ________________________________________________________________________________________ PEACH-SALMON ____________________________________________________________________________________ - Jewelweed - orange/peach - Broom Flower - Virginia Creeper (all parts); alum mordant; Peach. - Achiote powder (annatto seed) - Plum tree (roots) (salmon color on wool with alum) - Weeping Willow (wood & bark) makes a peachy brown (the tannin acts as a mordant) - Virgina Creeper - (fruit) – pink - Balm (blossom) – rose pink - Jewelweed - orange/peach - Broom Flower - Virginia Creeper (all parts); alum mordant; Peach. - Achiote powder (annatto seed - Plum tree (roots) (salmon color on wool with alum) - Weeping Willow (wood & bark) makes a peachy brown (the tannin acts as a mordant) - Virgina Creeper - (fruit) – pink - Balm (blossom) – rose pink ________________________________________________________________________________________ Shades of YELLOW-WHEAT ____________________________________________________________________________________
- Alfalfa (seeds) – yellow - Bay leaves – yellow - Barberry (bark) – yellow - Beetroot (yellow) (alum & K2Cr2O7) - Burdock - Cameleon plant (golden) - Celery (leaves) - Crocus – yellow - Daffodil (flower heads after they have died); alum mordant - Dahlia Flowers (Red, yellow, orange flowers) make a lovely yellow to orange dye for wool. - Dandelion (flower) - Dyer’s Greenwood (shoots) – yellow - Fustic – yellow - Golden Rod (flowers) - Heather – (plant) – yellow - Hickory leaves (yellow) if plenty of leaves are boiled and salt added. - Marigold (blossoms) – yellow - Mimosa – (flowers) yellow - Mulga Acacia -(flowers) – yellow - Mullein (leaf and root) pale yellow. *careful, because the little fuzzy hairs can make one itchy! - Mullein (verbascum thapsus) (flowers) bright yellow or light green. - Old man’s beard lichen – yellow/brown/orange shades - Onion (skins) – set with Alum. - Oregon-grape roots - yellow - Osage Orange also known as Bois d’arc or hedgeapple (heartwood, inner bark, wood, shavings or sawdust) (pale yellow) - Oxallis (wood sorrels) (flowers) – the one with the yellow flowers. Use the flower heads, some stem ok. It is nearly fluorescent yellow, and quite colorfast on alum mordanted wool. If the oxalis flowers are fermented or if a small dash of cloudy ammonia is added to the dye bath (made alkaline) the fluorescent yellow becomes fluorescent orange. Usually I do this as an after-bath, once I have the initial colour. Useful for shifting the dye shade, and some good surprises in store! -

Queen Anne’s Lace - Paprika -pale yellow – light orange - Peach (leaves) – yellow - Red Clover (whole blossom, leaves and stem) alum mordant – gold - Saffron (stigmas) – yellow – set with Alum. - Safflower (flowers, soaked in water) – yellow - Sassafras (bark)- yellow - St. John’s Wort - (flowers & leaves) – gold/yellow - Sumac (bark) – The inner pith of Sumac branches can produce a super bright yellow color. - Sunflowers – (flowers) – yellow - Syrian Rue (glows under black light) - Tansy (tops) – yellow - Tea ( ecru color) - Turmeric (spice) –bright yellow - Weld (bright yellow) - White mulberry tree (bark) Cream color onto white or off-white wool. Alum mordant. - Willow (leaves) - Yarrow – yellow and gold - Yellow cone flower (whole flower head); chrome mordant; Brass to Greeney-Brass. - Yellow, Curly, Bitter, or Butter Dock (despite various leaf shapes, all have a bright yellow taproot) gives you a yellow/flesh color.

A few books i found useful through my learning period, just copy and paste the links below. Enjoy! ; )

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