Category: Dye Plant Collection

08 Jul

Purpler Bundle dye double silks

Foraged: Cranesbill - Linaria - Purple Vetch - Queen Anne's Lace

Cranesbill - Linaria - Vetch

Foraged purple flowers.  Planned for Linaria, but it was almost finished.  Yet purple vetch still massing into flower.

Experimental bundle dye to see what 'takes'. Hawthorne dyed Ahimsa was pre-soaked in 10 mls of red acid dye, to change the gold slightly, and advice had been given it would give clearer prints.  Habotai light gold silk was pre-soaked in Alum.

Flowers arranged on Ahimsa and Habotai covering

Flowers between two silks

Two types of silk, sandwiched, were sprinkled with vinegar/water weak mix.  Queen Anne's lace was sponged with rust water.  Fabric was folded over itself into thirds, before winding around a thick stick.  Tightly tied with string, but uncovered, before steaming over an open saucepan.

Silks rolled around branch

Two silks wrapped around branch with string

Wrapped bundle over steam pan

Bundle was steamed for 5 hours simmered, then left sat overnight and opened after 24hrs.


Linaria (semi wild) produces a very good dark blue, in blurred shapes of the tops of Linaria flowers.  Shapes created by blue dye are mirrored due to the folding of the Habotai silk into three.

Mirror prints appear on darker gold Ahimza silk, but feinter.  (Ahimsa was not soaked in Alum, as it was briefly soaked in a weak magenta acid dye.  (A tip from another dyer that a pre soak in an acid dye will increase density of floral 'prints'; especially if iron modifier used).  

Red clover also made purple prints of the small tiny petals. [These tiny petals could have been sprinkled over].

No evidence of purple vetch giving a dye result.

Queen Anne's lace produced a good yellow where they were placed in centre of silk scarf lengths. They were sponged with iron-nail-water modifying mixture.

01 Feb

Sage Dyed Silk Triskele Torus Design

Experimental Silk Bleaching and Painting with Plant Dyes

This is my first attempt at using plant dyes (rather than commercial ones) on previously plant-dyed silk.  Silk dyed with rosehips was rather pale, so I over-dyed silk Habotai 10 with sage.  Previous triskele designs done in soya wax  (as resist) were only dull yellow and darker after the sage bath, so I bleached out further, brushing lemon juice around  in rough and larger manner to give vague paler guide.

  • Lemon juice with brush
  • De-colourant (commercial product) thinned with water, applied brush.

Lemon juice was brushed around the linear borders of triskelles, and the tie dyed star-shapes in background.  It seems to have removed the sage, but not the original peachy rosehip, which shows through.  This is a very useful tool to use as design outlines or rough out areas.  It needs testing on different plant dyes and see what colour results.

Lemon juice bleaching looked yellow when wet (sage dye dissolving?).  It produced only slightly paler areas, about 30% less of the ground colour, but gives an outline to follow later.  Triskeles were followed by placing tracing of design underneath silk, and sketching over on the silk with water soluble pens (available in blue and purple). To emphasize paleness, the de-colourant paste (thinned 50/50) was used to give light outlines: to see the whole design, and to allow for colour to be added over.  I iron steamed the de-colourant areas to dissolve.

A new shape - a torus in line form was added.   Light star shapes were originally tie dyed resist at original dying so they are pale in the torus two centres.

At this stage, perfection isn't so important as I prefer to have some unevenness, and some overlapping of layers.  In this instance, the overlapping of transparent torus over the original triskeles is an experiment.  Silk was rinsed in mild soapy water after the ironing/fixing out of the de-colourant.

*. *. *. *. *

OVER PAINTING SILK WITH NATURAL DYES -  Experimental design ideas to practice with dyes

Next, water based gutta was applied by both pipette and brush over the lines around and within the triskeles and the torus.  Gutta plain, and gutta with added dye Madder, Woad and  Mimosa Brown thinned, were used for thin and thicker lines around outside of triskeles.   Madder, woad and mimosa dyes were painted with brush within the outlined design areas.

Lemon juice successfully faded out some triskele colours painted too bright behind the 'torus' area.  A 'ghost effect' is produced.  Angels were placed within the torus ovals, utilising the pale tie-died star forms. De colourant had also been used beforehand to lighten the 'angel wings' area. (After steaming wings went rather yellow, so de colourant needed again).


Experimental result from 2 hrs steaming.  About 70% of natural pigment seemed to stay in tact with a faded overall 'aged' effect.  This could work well used in abstract designs, where clear outlines not needed.  The gutta steamed out completely, leaving the dyes behind.   The lines within the torus are quite a good effect.  Madder stayed fairly well, woad quite paler, and gold-brown colours used in the gutta line application seem to have infused the whole areas. Turmeric was painted in some areas around designs, which may have spread out adding an unwanted yellow overall.

Steamed Silk Experimental Design

Strength of colour was lost;  faded effect is interesting and can be utilised for 'antique' designs.

The many different lines of gutta outlines, and infill dyed lines create a subtle interesting effect, even though the brighter contrasting colour outlines are lost.

Madder turned duller, ruddy brownish, and other gold and brown outlines merged into each other.  Woad blue faded to pale. (woad without additive)

Actually a good background for embroidery.

[Photographed in evening lamp light]


De-colourant repainted over areas originally lighter

Due to the loss of colour contrast, I used chemical decolourant discharge paste over some main circle lines and the angels.  I forgot to use it weaker strength and got a yellowish result. The first result was aesthetically better.

  • Some torus rings, triskeles, celtic knots and angel wings lightened in rough large brushed areas.

  • Areas are steam ironed to activate discharge

Coloured details can be added again over top, possibly with synthetic dyes due to the detailed colour needed for angels, bird and lion.  Other discharge pastes may be tried over for this experimental piece.  Eventually I hope the piece will be usable as centre piece to a patchwork quilt.


CONCLUSION:  Natural dyes are good for background areas.

Gutta outlines (to prevent dye spread) were coloured with natural dye, which mostly faded out after steaming.  Their wobbly outlines (created by gutta pipette and nib application), gives an interest better than exact lines.

Lines as feature colour were faded.  MADDER kept colour best in the outlines, and will be useful for silk design outlines.

Coloured brush strokes can be overlaid for intermixed tones.

20 Nov

Silk and Wool Indian Bean Tree Dye

Bright Pink leaves collected

Indian Bean tree red leaves

Bright Pink leaves in dye pot

Pink pigment quickly absorbed

Pink silk washed in rainwater

Tree has large heart shaped leaves which turn cerise, and dark red.  Found fallen on the path in early November.  The dye pigment is released by slow soaking in rain water, but changes to brown if boiled. (produces similar brown colour as sycamore leaves produce).  Pink is released into fabric in cold water.

Silk soaked in alum for mordanting: then soaked overnight in red leaf water.  Pigment was rapidly absorbed immediately, and turned deep pink overnight.  Washed out in rain water.  When hanging in air, starting to dry, it turned silver grey.  Finished result is a very good silver, good to coordinate with other grey fabrics.

Silk rinsed result deep pink

Indian Bean Tree  - Dye results:

PINK-SILVER on silk : GREEN on wool

After drying, pink silk turned silver; evenly dyed.

Indian Bean Tree - Steam Pressed Leaves

DISCOVERY:  Red Indian Bean tree leaves soaked COLD with fabric produces silver on alum mordanted silk, green on wool pre-dyed with hawthorn, and if used HOT steamed, gives brown textures onto Tutsan dyed silk.

EXPERIMENT:  Steam printing leaves on Tutsan dyed silk

  1. Steam press red leaves (underside up) through protective piece of scrap cotton onto silk.
  2. RESULT:  Red or reddish-brown outlines of leaf veins.  Not worked each time.  Leaves need to be rain water wet.
  3. Paint leaves with old cider vinegar. Position over silk.  Fold silk over double, sandwiching leaves.
  4. Steam press over leaves areas, pressing hard.
  5. RESULT:  Brown outlines of leaves; appears burnt effect from vinegar. [good for paper printing].


Fine wool was previously dyed in Hawthorn bath (second soak): with splodgy rust marks needing disguise.  A good opportunity to experiment with resist techniques.

  1. Fern leaves laid on, wool length folded over
  2. Melted soya wax dabbed with stiff paint brush over the fern shapes.  Some red Indian Bean leaves placed in spaces.
  3. Cloth folded rectangularly into flat piece.
  4. Soaked overnight in cold bean leaf dye bath (after refreshing with more red leaves first).
  5. On opening parcel, pink dyed area seen [subsequently turns grey , then green]
  6. Wax washed out, and pressed out with brown paper, then washed again.
  7. Wax is sticky on wool fabric.


Feint imprint of fern in centre-right, from soya resist after washing out.  Ferns also produce dye showing russet fern shapes in places.  It would work with a darker overdye and suit silk better, as wax is more difficult to remove from wool.  Final colour was grey green, (now become lime green after various washings to remove wax.) More techniques are needed as the wool piece is still obviously patchy, needing disguise. (see over-designs below).

Experimental painting with natural dye mixes

Grey green wool developed to a brighter lime green after further washing in laundry liquid.  Blotchy green coverage suitable for designs overpainted.  Triskele design adapted from Adrian Meehan's 'Spiral Patterns', 12 fold division of circle - 'The Hitching hanging Bowl'  item c.650 AD.  Centre Nigella seed pods from own drawings adapted from own photographs.

Dye powders mixed in pond water and simmered to dissolve.  Half a jar of water, level Tblsp or less dye powder, level Tbsp soda ash.  The soda ash likely made the colours tend towards brown, e.g. Mimosa, Logwood.  Madder turned darker red rather than orange-red.

Madder + soda ash.  Logwood + soda ash.  Turmeric.  Mimosa (1) + soda ash + oak gall = warm brown. Mimosa (2) + soda ash + woad = warm beige (not the lilac possible with Mimosa).  Woad (1) pure.  Woad (2) + soda ash = greeny blue. 



Logwood and Woad dye jars were mixed with 'No Flow' to prevent colour bleeding. I also had dabbed the whole fabric with 'no flow' with a natural sponge.  Madder was mixed with Epaississant gum ('Se melangea la couleur pour lui enlever son fusant') also to prevent dye spreading out of desired shapes, which worked well, as all red is contained.  Blue lines were able to be applied finely, as was the logwood; both with an antifusant added. Mimosa had no antifusant added and bled out of design area; seen around the seed pods in centre.  Brown bleed-out areas were bleached with lemon juice afterwards see in above image. Conclusion: half a tsp of antifusant can be added to half full dye jar to prevent bleeding.

Lemon juice was brushed around centre circles to bleach lighter where the Mimosa brown had spread too much.

UNSUCCESSFUL - Colours were not steamed, so washing out removed most of the colour.  (Wool must be steamed to fix the dyes, just as silk is. I normally paint with steam fix dyes and wanted to try the natural dyes without steaming.  Iron steaming might have half worked).  Mimosa and logwood colours still remain embedded though feinter.  The feint pastel colours are attractive in their own right, but will be merged into the fresh painting.

WOOL PAINTING RECOVERY - Adding discharged designs again

Discharge paste 'De Clourant' was mixed with warm water, about 50% water/30% discharge paste.  (Weaker solution due to a test showing full strength goes yellow on the green dyed wool!).  The weaker strength works fine when steamed, and does not leave any thickness on the wool surface.  Design shapes of Celtic Triskeles are roughly traced with water soluble pen, then bleached out by applying mix with rough brush marks as the basic outlines of triskeles.  (quickest way to re-establish the areas).

REPAINTING WITH NATURAL DYES  - Madder, Woad, Logwood, Mimosa (jar mixes)

Fine wool held still with masking tape, over a lightbox perspex sheet before applying gutta-dye lines and infill-dye with brush.

Finished painting of triskeles on fine wool scarf


Slightly disappointing result, but was expected.  Background original green (Indian Bean Tree)  turned slightly more gold (olive); also changeable in different lights.  The aspect of appearing brighter gold-green, or duller olive-green is interesting.  Previous painted errors were disguised well.

Madder dye -  A ruddy red remained well, but paler.   Logwood dye - Aubergine brown paler.  Mimosa - brown paler.

Woad dye - first mix very pale blue; second woad mix with soda ash added, looked green in jar, but stayed darker blue after steaming.


Many of the gutta drawn outlines with dye added disappeared, but they worked well, preventing dye spreading outside of design areas; even on this very open weave, see-through fine wool.

Dark blue thin gutta outlines turned brown.

Woad was extremely pale, except for a 2nd woad mix with soda ash added, which looked dark green in jar, but steamed prussian blue.

CONCLUSION -  Plant dyes work on fine wool, but these were on a green ground.  White or paler colours might produce stronger dye colours.

26 Jun

Hawthorn Berries Three Rivers Dyed Silk

Hawthorn Berries 1 - River Taw

Berries from Tarka Trail foraging trip along River Taw found by ditch and field growing through hazelnut and willow trees with briars and nettles.

Hawthorn (1) - Dye Bath Process

  • Soak berries for 2-3 days.
  • Boil then simmer for 1-2 hours.  Add water and re-simmer if evaporates.
  • Mash berries, remove pulp from dye pan.  Cool to hand hot.
  • Soak silk in dye bath pot overnight or for two days.
  • The longer soaked, the darker and stronger the colour.

Steeping in dye bath

Silk absorbs dye colour immediately, but some hours of soaking will deepen the tone.  Move silk occasionally to ensure all parts even

1st silk can be left in a bowl to dye stronger overnight, while keeping back some dye liquid to soak a 2nd piece, which will have a paler result.

Hawthorn Berries 2 - River Otter - Dye Process

Soak berries and simmer as Hawthorn (1).  Two silk samples were added to dye liquid when cooled and soaked in a wide copper pot for a day and a night. One was cream. The other was dull pale grey (failed woad dyed piece) which resulted in a browner result. (Colour mixing: grey + hawthorn = brown)

Comparisons - Rivers Taw - River Otter berries

Taw berries result is golden.  Otter berries result is dull fawn.  Unknown whether the different river soils affected the dye colour, or if the copper pot had an effect, which is likely.

Hawthorn Berries 3 - River Exe - Dye Process

Hawthorn Berries River Exe Sessions1,2,3,4 give 4 colour variations

Silk 1 - Lime green.   Silk 2 - Medium mauve.   Silk 3 - Silver.  Silk 4 - Pale peach

Fascinating variations obtained by use of mordants, or washing out methods, or how fresh or old/exhausted the dye bath becomes.

Exe Berries - Ahimsa Silk 1. Mauve turns Green

Large long piece of silk soaked a few hours in pre-mordanting Alum beforehand.

Good Mauve result.  Washed out in tap water, with added soap. Turned GREY, then gradually GREEN!  (Far left)

Was it the tap water?  Was it the soap?

Exe Berries - Ahimsa Silk 2.

Two dress top shapes. NO premordant alum.

Steeped 24hrs in remainder dye bath pink sludgy liquid.

Washed out in tap water - stayed a medium MAUVE. (presume due to no alum).

Exe Berries - Ahimsa Silk 3.

One long silk piece with a hem.

Placed in previous dye bath (1. and 2.)

Turned mauvish, but dried out SILVER! (Right)

Exe Berries - Ahimsa Silk 4.

Silk pre-mordanted with Alum and Cream of Tartar.

Cider vinegar from pre-soaked apple peels added to dye bath.

Placed liquid and fabric in copper pot.

Result overnight - pale peach.

22 May

Tansy dyed silk

Images to add from dye baths. (missing error)

Wet rinsed silk - drying. Do not squeeze out too hard, or twist creases may occur which don't completely iron out. In summer silk dries fairly quickly and can be ironed smooth while still slightly damp before any creases set in.

A few dark 'spots' are splashes from another dye bath with iron I was doing simultaneously. Only do ONE dye bath at a time.

Ahimsa silk used here, has a different texture to Habotai smooth silk; has thickness of a cotton shirt, but hangs very loose and soft, similarly to viscose. I use offcuts from a fashion company. Its easy to sew and embroider on; as well as silk painting.

This lime yellow is very vivid (see comparisons with other gold colours), so I will overpaint with silk dyes or bundle leaf prints. However, it could be useful to over-dye with madder to give a good orange, or with woad for a turquoise blue. The future life of this piece will be posted here....

See more and others' dye procedures on my Natural Plant Dye Pinterest Board.

Post script.../ This lime yellow was over-dyed in November, used for another test with sycamore leaves bundle-dyeing; I didn't think I would use a bright lime yellow, but must replace as a sample.

22 May

Ladies bedstraw Dyed Silk

Bedstraw is found in waste ground and near the coast. The reddish roots are used for dyeing; family is Madder (Rubiaceae) a well known red dye. The plant I found is growing along the Tarka Trail cycle path (ex rail track) opposite the small town of Bideford, N. Devon. Not easy to pull out the roots, and many were left for next year's growth. This seemed a particularly large and well established plant. Bedstraw has many herbal uses.

The roots have a strong pigment towards red-brown.  As the dye bath reduced, I noticed a good pinky red forming on the sides of the pan; possibly due to being aluminium; it may have absorbed the pink element of 'red', giving way to a more browny-peachy colour, even so a very bright peach from the strongest 1st soaking.

Ladies Bedstraw - Amazingly bright ruddy peach silk after removal from dye bath and rinsing

1st Bedstraw dyed silk sample has been pre-mordanted in Alum for a day before putting to soak in hand hot dye bath.  Although the roots were boiled up to release dye, boiling Ahimsa silk roughens it, so it was immersed in only a 'hot' bath.  Plant dye is often absorbed with no heating.

2nd Bedstraw dyed silk sample in cooled dye bath which was reheated with bedstraw to obtain more dyestuff.  Red dye liquid is drained off into glass bowl to soak silk.  Steam iron while still damp to help smooth out creases, or don't squeeze out all water.  Paler colours can be obtained by adding to remaining dye bath while some pigment remains unabsorbed.

Lady's Bedstraw Ahimsa silk results: 1st soak strong peach - 2nd soak light peach.

These samples will be matched with recycled fabric prints, and painted on before becoming part of a new garment; which will be added to this post in due course....

See more and others' dye procedures on my Natural Plant Dye Pinterest Board.

Images copyright Amelia Jane Hoskins Please email for use permission.