Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Experimenting with making natural fabricdyes

1) 20gr. of dried and chopped peppermint + 1l. of water = less than 0.5L of a dark khakibrown.
2) 45gr. of dried and crushed juniperberries + 1,5l. of water = 1,3 L of a murky brown.
3) 150gr. of dried dandelionroot + 2l. of water = only 0,75l. of dark olive drab.
4) 150gr. of dried goldenrod + 3l. water = 1,25l. of dark khaki
5) Unknown weight in onionpeels (almost a paper shoppingbag full, both red and golden) + 10l. of water = 6l. of a rich, dark red

Here are the candidates nicely lined up
In order to get an idea of what the colour might be like, I cut some strips of paper, dunked them for several seconds in the raw dye and let them dry. They looked like this;

Somehow I expected more and was not satisfied with these samples. So I took things one step further. I cut several strips of an old, white cotton t-shirt and took some tufts of natural unbleached wool. I put those together with the raw dye, brought it to a boil and let it simmer for half an hour. The results were quite different and surprising! No mordant was used, no preboiling or washing, so the results might differ again, when doing the full proces.

I'm allready planning on other colours, but the gathering for the materials will take some time and effort.
On the wishlist are pinebark, birchleaves, dandelion flowerheads, rhubarbstems and -roots.
In the autum (hopefully) oakbark and acorns, various berryspecies and fallen (red and golden) leaves....

Doing this sounds timeconsuming, but it actually isn't. While the water, plantmaterial or dyes boil and simmer, you can do something else... like ironing.... ;)
Dried plantmaterial tends to absorb considerable amounts of water. Take that into account when trying something like this!!


  1. Love your little experiment! After dyeing with plants for several years, I can say, it's never boring and you never exactly know, which colour will come out. Perhaps you might want to use iron water to turn some of the yellowish shades into greens. You can make it from old rusty iron bits (nails or whatever you have at hand), vinegar and water. If you need an recipe for it, I'll look it up. And you don't need to note the amount of water you use, only the relation between the weight of your dyeing plant and the material you want to dye. Makes things a lot easier if you dye a lot ;)

    1. Hej Drui,
      danke für dein Kommentar und das Angebot! Dieses Rezept hätte ich gerne!
      Ich muss sagen das mich dein blaues, gewebtes Band nach Finnisches Muster sehr gefällt!

    2. Danke :) Das Muster mag ich auch sehr, ich muss es mal in anderen Farben weben und ein Wenig experimentieren ;)
      Now I will go on writing in English, to stay international. Maybe some of your readers can use this recipe also :)
      So, for the iron water you'll need about 100g of iron nails or other little bits of iron, 400ml of water and 100ml vinegar essence. Put it in a jar with a lid and let it rest for 2-3 weeks. I will produce rust and get brown. When the solution starts to get cloudy, pour it into a bottle for use and storagege. Then rinse the iron, you can then use it for making a new solution.
      When dyeing, use a small amount (about 3 teaspoons) in your dyeing bath, after you are ready with dyeing yellow. It will go especially well, if you are using it in the hot liquid. Let your dyeing material rest in it for about 15 minutes, stirring well, so the fabric/yarn/whatever doesn't react with oxygen. That would cause dark spots. Then take it out, the air will make it darker and greener. If the green doesn't show up or is too light, you can put some more iron water into the bath, but be patient. When you like the colour, take it out and rinse well.
      So, that's it ;) Have fun with experimenting!

  2. Ich wußte nicht, daß die Kommentare hier auf Deutsch sein müßen! ;)

    Naja, auf jeden Fall sieht es aus, als ob Du guten Fortschritt machst, Ron! Gut zu sehen. :)

    1. Jaså...
      You do speak German, too? I forgot your background....
      I try to use German too, every once in a while, in order to maintain my knowledge of the language.
      The weird thing is that I have allready started forgetting Dutch words and need to use the swedish, English or even German equivalent! So I am using 4 languages, reading, writing, and when possible, speaking them. Learning one new one and keeping up 3 others....

    2. I totally understand, especially considering that you're talking about four similar Germanic languages! I'm kind of "lucky", since Finnish is so different from English and German. At least there's not much chance of mixing them up!