Category: Dye Bath Processes

26 Apr

Magnolia Dyed Silk

Magnolia petals

Dried petals (browned) wrapped in silk which was previously dyed with boiled magnolia petals, producing a bright shiny Naples yellow.  Petals were white with purple centres.


Bundle Method - Opening bundle reveals steamed petals

Silk wrapped around wood or stick, with string and rubber bands.  A second bundle was made with razor shells as a base.  Silk pieces were quite small and folded over to trap petals.   2nd dyeing produced some feint brownish areas from the second dye with petals.  Click to open gallery view

Texture 'seersucker' effect

Crossing over string back along the piece results in twist impression on dyed fabric.  If wrapped very tightly it might keep an interesting effect.

Silk in apple tree shows the brightness of the yellow in sunlight.  The piece bundle dyed with razor shells shows slight browning from the petals.

25 Feb

Silk clamp dyed patterns

First experiments with clamp dyed patterns using natural dyes on Habotai silk


AVOCADO SKINS - saved for some years, dried.

6 avocado seeds smashed open and added to simmer. ( they are beige inside and may contribute to the warm gold)

Large bulldog clamps placed at strategic angles after folding silk from the centre.

ONE process only for this RESULT dyed in Avocado Skins dye bath.


Varied tones are due to how tightly folds were clamped and how much silk on outside of folded length was exposed to the dye bath.  Grey areas and black marks are due to non-steel screws in bulldog clips which started rusting in the pan!  However, the grey they create adds another dimension to the colour tones.

2nd Experiment Piece:    1.  APPLE BARK DYE BATH - Clamped result

Apple branches and twigs

Cut and sawn into 3 - 4 inch pieces, soaked for a day or two, boiled and simmered, until submerging a small silk sample piece it is seen to absorb  enough colour.

Silk clamped in dyebath

Premordanted with alum, silk has been folded in half, then quarter, then in triangles as concertina folds;  then is clamped with large bulldog clips, which creates the final line shapes.  Steeped in dye bath overnight.

Good result with white silk remaining. Clips are good length for square grid lines or hexagons.  The apple bark dye bath produces a good 'old gold'.

First APPLE BARK CLAMPED result of silk piece.  Darker areas were exposed to dye bath.  No cardboard or wood pieces were clamped with silk, hence the exposed areas.

Was subsequently over-died with avocado skins giving a pale gold over the white.

2.  &  3.  sequences - Starflower fold with alkanet (not shown, no photo as very pale) then over dyed with avocado skins

4.  CLAMP DYE - tight folded in ALKANET

It helps keep rigid geometry if folds are gently ironed into place during clamping preparation.  Pleased to see hexagons almost looking right.



  • 1 - Gold grid : clamp dyed in apple bark

  • 2 - Very feint lilac star flower 1st clamp dyed alkanet (not shown)

  • 3 - Over dyed in avocado skins to change the stark white

  • 4 - Hexagons, clamp dyed with alkanet

  • 5 - Final over dye below: ⬇


Colour and design is completely changed!   Logwood result violet.  Previous lines of apple bark and alkanet dyes are just visible against light.

Logwood fibres were soaked for 3-4 days, after initial boiling, and daily simmering.  Firstly it turns red, then over the days turns violet-blue-black.  Silk immediately takes on the colour.  I left it in the cooled dye bath, clamped, about 6 hours, turning once.  (Less time may have given a lilac, rather than such dark violet.)


Abstract design interest - Starburst (1) and Image like thunder and lightning landscape (2) , with possibilities for using as prints, or with extra digital image manipulation laid over.  Quarters of the design have an interesting overlay of tones:

  • Strong violet lines where clamps were
  • Grid lines of apple bark clamping
  • Beige background in places from avocado overdying
  • Black in places where silk was exposed to logwood dye bath (overdyed apple bark)


Additions of lemon juice discharge and other dye colours - original 'effect' is more natural and interesting.


DISCHARGE TESTS - colour results

  • Lemon Juice (natural)
    • Red-orange, turning orange.  Good contrast option to work into design.
  • Discharge paste (Jacquard commercial) full strength)
      • Orange
  • Decolourant (Jacquard commercial) mixed in water
    • More pink than orange
  • NOTE:  single brush stroke gives less discharge and therefore a more muted result, like burnt violet, or muted burnt orange/sienna.
  • Woad
    • Looked blue, but steamed out to gold background

Final clamped LOGWOOD result photod over white cotton background

ALKANET STAR FLOWER -  3rd Clamp Experiment



Habotai silk stretched on frame ready to paint thickened dyes over.  The quality of original clamp dyed result is somewhat spoiled by new additions by hand, but each silk piece is seen as a practice piece, a test bed.

  1. Alkanet mixed with Guar Gum to avoid dye run.  Adding tiny bits at a time to jars of dye, until liquid starts to thicken.  [Advice: do not add to boiling water, which seemed to cook it into a dough.]. Where applied thickly, yellow results, when overpainted with alkanet a third time.
  2. Alkanet applied to areas with none, or little dye from clamp process.  With extra zig-zag areas filled.
  3. Logwood added to highlight some areas, to match the heavier initial dyed sections.
  4. After steaming, silk needed more washing out, to remove dye binder.



Priority purpose of these silks is to experiment with success rate with dye baths; resist techniques; and painting onto silk with dye bath liquids.  Markings are not a major design concept, simply a means to use the dye paste and check for colour impregnation success or failure.

Lemon juice discharge was not practiced in this piece.


Painting in approximation of marks and areas: nothing copied precisely, just roughly similar in variations of markings which resulted over the whole piece. Zigzags, blurred areas between 'star' boundaries.  Dark grey is logwood (possibly dulled, not purple, due to alkanet background, or due to addition of guar gum binder).

Alkanet star middle area over white cotton background

31 Oct

Plant Dyes Wool and Silk Autumn Winter 2023 Spring 2024

Hawthorn 'May blossom' in full bloom with rare magenta Salsify (its normally yellow) growing up through.

Autumn FORAGING and DYEING TIME using plants in my allotment

Hawthorn - Comfrey - Tutsan Eurasian St. John's Wort - Rose Hips

Hawthorn berries:  the Hawthorn tree has grown considerably since it seeded itself about 5 years ago.  The amount of blossom in May ensured there would be many berries, which turned bright red by August, but by late October when I got to pick them many were gone.  Previous Hawthorn dyeing was from berries near different rivers. can be compared.

Dye bath is not exhausted after three lots of dyeing, so still has potential for multiple dyeing and to produce a good stock of pale gold silk or wool backgrounds, which is very useful for painting on.  It can be modified with iron for duller tones, or sycamore for more russet darker tones.  This time of year sycamore leaves are plentiful on the ground.


Comfrey leaves are plentiful in summer.  See previous Comfrey dyeing post.  By autumn, three plants had sprouted new leaves after earlier ones had frizzled away from heat and rain.  They soon brown off in winter so I picked a deep basket full of them all.

  • Soak leaves overnight, pressing as many leaves down into large jam pan as possible.
  • Heat to soften and add more as they soften down. (from a large picking).
  • Boil and simmer for some hours, until leaves mushy
  • Remove leaves; cool liquid before adding wool or silk.

Fine wool cloth was dyed first, soaked overnight, without mordant.  Silk was dyed secondarily, soaked from cooled dye bath, and achieved the same ecru colour.  Notice the colour results are identical for wool or silk, whereas with Hawthorn berries, the colour results are different between fine wool and silk.  RESULTS below after 24 hour soakings


Lace dress wet from comfrey dye bath.

Third fabric to soak pigment.

It looked green, but dried grey; only appearing 'green' in photographs.

TUTSAN berries, (EURASIAN ST JOHNS WORT) Hypericum androsaemum 

Used for the first time as I had not seen this plant in books.  The berries produce a good light orange gold on silk, without mordanting.

Both black and red berries were soaked overnight, then boiled and simmered, until skins broke and they became soft.  Plant stuff removed and Habotai silk soaked in liquid in slow cooker, on warm for a while, then cooled overnight.

Secondary dye piece of lace summer top: Lace appears to be cotton and soaked up the dye.  After several hours the lining was still whitish, (photo above wet) so presumed polyester; but after 24 hours, it was just about the same colour as the cotton lace, so it may be viscose or silk organdie.  (felt like organdie).   More pigment still visible in dye bath to be used for another piece.  Used berries in photo.

Comparisons below of wet cloths: Tutsan dyed silk (left), and Hawthorne dyed fine wool (right)

Bundle steaming - petals and leaves - on Tutsan dyed silk

Textured antique background for painting over

  1. Laying dried geranium petals, dried daffodils, red antirrhinum petals and other purple flowers, and  on silk.
  2. Wrap around 1 inch wide strip of cardboard; roll around; make into bundle ring and tie with twine.
  3. Suspend bundle over dye bath pan.  Steam for an hour.
  4. RESULT:  'Antique' effect mottled brown and dull pink, with yellow from the daffodils. Motifs repeated in stripes, the width of the cardboard.
  5. Can be tried with any petals and seeds and leaves on any pastel shade to give textured effect.

ROSE HIPS  :  Used for peachy pink dyeing and rose hip syrup

Result from 2023 rosehip dye were quite pale.  A peachy light bright pastel, but not as pink as previous years.  [Add samples of dyed silk and wool.]

The wool is a fair colour to paint designs over.  The Silk was subsequently over-dyed: with continued experiments using resist techniques.  Overdyed with sage giving light yellow-gold; first dye bath strong ochre gold, second dye bath lighter ocre gold.  See Sage dyed silk Triskele designs.

22 Mar

Comfrey Soy Waxed Roses

Comfrey Over-died - Wax Resist Roses on Habotai silk

Experimental use of soy wax with stencils of rose shapes, [link to wax stencils] in cold comfrey dye bath.  Wax cracks in the cool liquid which can be explored. (see floating wax fragments) I emphasised crackled result by gripping rose shapes with centre point at top of finger hold, to ensure there was a crackled pattern bursting from the centre.   This technique has good potential for an overall soy wax design or florals painted on silk before immersing in a dye bath.

Petal Bundle Dye Preparation

Comfrey dyed rose wax stencilled Habotai silk with Khafir Lilly petals, common pink Mallow and dried wild thyme purple seed heads.  Several silk pieces can be prepared and added to the same bundle dye.  I also added an Ahimsa silk piece from a previous weak woad dye.

Silk pieces are sprayed with household vinegar and carefully folded and wrapped into a bundle, rolled, and tied tightly with string.  Not every petal produces strong colour in final outcome, which depends on pressure applied within bundle. A solid tight string casing may be better.

LEFT:  Result on Ahimsa silk, purple blurred petal impressions, possibly due to piece being in centre of bundle, and/or previous woad dye on that piece.  RIGHT:  Result on Habotai silk, scanty light red petal impressions.  (impressions were less than imagined, probably due to loose string tied bundle.)  A large spread of many petals may be needed for more final impressions.

21 Mar

Rose Antique and Burgundy Kimono

Silk and Satin Kimono Dress ' ROSE ANTIQUE'

Patchwork features hand painted habotai silk top and lower ahimsa silk painted patchwork


Patchworks created over burgundy polyester satine shirt/nightshirt which forms lining.  Existing collar and button welt are utilised on the outside, while patchworks are created exactly to fit over shirt shape.  The burgundy satine has a pink rose print which top fabrics coordinate with.  Sleeves have been extended some inches, with darker purple Ahimsa silk borders left over from a previously logwood-dyed silk.  Two different silk painting pieces were created to coordinate with all chosen fabrics.   Loose size fits up to 42" bust.  Model is average size.

Silk Painting (top):  Comfrey dyed Habotai silk with hand painted Roses over pale soya wax resist, Celtic Triskels and red motifs from one of the prints.  The cream silk looks antique in tone when laid over the darker burgundy.

Silk Painting (hem):  Hawthorn dyed Ahimsa silk with bundle dyed texture of Sycamore leaves, then hand painted over with leaf outlines and roses, with painted motifs copied from a coordinate.   Silk painting method below...


LEFT Centre:  Triskeles and Roses on Habotai silk. 

 RIGHT Left: Sycamore leaves and Roses on Ahimsa silk.

COLLAR:  Utilised from lining shirt. The outside of the shirt becomes the inside lining of Kimono.  BACK:  Burgundy colour scheme echoed in intricate centre print on voile.

Side Views

Sleeves are extended from underlying burgundy shirt to create 'kimono' style.  Dark purple remnant of a silk painting forms wide extended border.  Lined with colour coordinating viscose in lilac cloud print.  The original outline of the shirt tail slits is followed.


ROSE ANTIQUE BURGUNDY KIMONO available £160.00 - Direct from maker.  (new purchasing coming soon...)

FRONT BUTTONING - Upper - Middle - Lower    BUTTONS - Heart shaped painted wood.

SLEEVES  -  Lining is viscose which extends to outer sleeve to form a border with dark purple, logwood-dyed, Ahimsa painted silk patchwork.

HEM BOTTOM LAYER - Original curved slit outlines followed of underlying burgundy shirt (as lining)

Techniques used in Silk Painting preparations

SOYA WAX RESIST:  My own photos were used, all enlarged to similar size, to make paper stencil cut-outs, for comfrey-soy-waxed-roses.  Rose petal areas were roughly painted in hot soya wax.  When wax was well set, the silk was placed in a cold comfrey dye bath, which showed cracking of wax after immersion, so I squeezed the roses slightly around a centre point, which produced the cracks as lines from the centre of pale rose shapes.

STEAM PRINTED PETALS and seeds are imprinted by bundle-steam method. Result is a few colour imprints of colour in areas between the roses.  Rose petals shapes were lost by the cracking effect, so they were painted finally with a more stylized curly petals.  Triangle was cut out where something was stained.  This was utilised as neck area on kimono construction.  CONCLUSION:  This technique would be good on darker backgrounds, to be tried!

Sycamore Roses Steam Printed Leaves and Painted Roses on Ahimsa Silk

Sycamore leaf steamed bundle print produced a brown texture, interesting by itself; however for this garment, I added more over painting to match with patchwork fabric designs.  The red  outlines weren't needed; a blurred background to bring out the leaf areas would have sufficed.

11 Nov

Silk dyed with Comfrey leaves

Comfrey leaves give a cream or light beige colour, good for painting on.  Adding iron, gives a dulled greyed mushroom cream.  Comfrey leaves get mushy after boiling.

Alum is a standard means of pre mordanting fabric, to help dye absorption.  Soaking in soya is another.  Alum dissolves in water, before silk is added and soaked for an hour or overnight before dying.

I used this dye session to experiment with shibori: stitching through layers with embroidery skeins, wrapping thread tightly at intersections.  It worked but the result was too pale to notice any difference where the dye resisted.  Iron was added to the dye bath after first pigment had taken up.

Silk looks dark when wet, after iron water added to dye bath, but dried many shades lighter.  Good as a pale mushroom colour.  Shibori stitching was diagonally across weft and warp.  Pale dyes dont give the contrast seen on darker dyes.  I used only cotton thread, which did not resist much dye stuff.  Soya wax could have been brushed on the diagonal lines, to give a slight resist.  Thicker waxed thread ought be tried.

Plain comfrey dyed portion of sample

Darker comfrey + iron dyed section sample

Adding iron to comfrey dye bath turns grey green, and leaving silk submerged longer, results in a very good khaki or green-gold colour.

16 Sep

Alder Tree Cone Dye

Alder cones in Exeter

Cones form on lower branches of the alder tree, first greenish, changing through to brown by late summer. Usually reachable just above head height.  Often seen laying on grass around the base of the tree, clumped on sprigs.

They have good keeping qualities when box full collected.

Produces a pale earthy beige; very useful for painting on to.

Alder Cone dye result on Habotai silk

15 Sep

Walnut Husks Dyed Silk

Walnut Husks Dye Process

  • Walnut husks were soaked for several days before boiling up and simmering until liquid was very dark brown.
  • Remove husks and decant liquid to bowl.
  • Add wet silk pieces. I used Ahimsa silk.
  • Agitate frequently then soak overnight
  • Silk takes up the brown dye bath quickly but keep turning and agitating occasionally while soaking. (I don't boil Ahimsa silk as it would roughen surface) Soaking is adequate for obtaining a reasonable colour.
  • A secondary dying of another piece of Ahimsa silk produced a lighter shade of the brown.

There is a lot of pigment left in the dye bath which can be stored in jars or used for additional fabrics.  Fill to brim to avoid mould forming. It could also be used to add to jars of cream/gold dyes to strengthen tone.  At this stage it would be good to investigate what might be added to the bath, to change the colour of what pigment is left.  I was tempted to add some madder dyestuff for a dark red (purchased, not foraged), and this remains to be tested.

Silk Samples of Gold Variations

Walnut dyed silk is the darkest obtained so far of the beige and golds range, turning out to be a light coffee brown/bronze colour.  It might have gone darker still on Habotai silk.  The Ahimsa silk used, is cotton-like in feel, thicker, and although absorbs well, slightly slower.

Walnut Tree

Walnuts were found on the ground where they had had been decaying under a walnut tree on Bossington Green, Porlock, North Somerset.

21 Aug

Logwood Dyed Silk

Experimental shibori and batik on Logwood dyed silk - 1st Trial

Logwood (in bought dried form) was found to easily produce a very deep violet dye on Ahimsa silk.  Note: Less dye stuff would produce lilac and mauves.  Shibori stitching outlining butterfly showed clearly in white where dye penetration was resisted.

Batik wax originally painted on the silk was overcome by dye, remaining strong aubergine.  To create a contrast to bring out shapes, I outlined in transparent gutta the shapes intended in the design (to be coloured). I used craft 'fabric bleach' to brush on some areas, such as banana leaves.  A second steaming produced the intended shapes in a lighter aubergine, which would be interesting to explore further.

Colour added to simple images copied from a textile, as experiment.  This piece was unfortunately burnt in steaming (water pot went dry), and was cut into strips and used in another garment.


2nd Batik Experiment

Double stitched outlines of images, as shibori test.  Batik wax painted quite heavily onto ahimsa silk, with daubing stiff paint brush, to create a cellular texture.  The shibori threads were pulled tight before dying.  Washing out, the wax had held.  Ironed over wax several times with strong brown paper to absorb wax, then rubbing off the bees wax in warm soapy water.  Texture remained to start painting on.

2nd Trial result produced a pleasant textured background to overpaint on.  Fabrics were chosen to coordinate, and use as a colour guide.

Rectangular design was a simple test with the batik, creating a usable textured background to over painting with brighter colours.  This rectangle was used in a dress Butterflies and Pansies  panel front.  Flowers were also embroidered.

21 Aug

Mullein Dyed Silk

Mullein gold colour is not from the flowers, but the LEAVES.

Soak before, and simmer mullein leaves to release colour

Boiled leaves removed. Silk added to brown dye.

Ahimsa Silk absorbs mullein leaf dye well. It dries much lighter than it first appears.

The longer silk is left in a strong dye bath the more colour it may absorb, for a stronger and deeper colour.  This looked dark, and I washed it out, but it could have been darker if left over night.  A small piece of silk will not be able to absorb all the dye, so a secondary piece can be added later.

I may not have used a mordant (such as alum), as colour dried light gold beige.  A good neutral background for painting on.

Many plants produce a dye for cream, beige, or gold;  which is very useful background for silk painting on, rather than stark white. Intensity varies.  More antique tone can be achieved by adding ferrous water to the dye bath. (iron - made from rusty nail water). Other metals could be experimented with.  Copper will have an effect.  Making the dye bath in copper pan has an effect.

Images copyright Amelia Jane Hoskins Please email for use permission.