Category: Dye Plant Collection

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

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Dye Bath 

  • Cut up Tansy flower tops and soak overnight in water (pond or river water if available).
  • Boil up in stainless steel pan; simmer for an hour or more until water is well coloured; then leave to cool to hand hot only. (Cotton can be simmered, but silk may get matted and rough if boiled).
  • Agitate silk in dye bath occasionally, redistributing evenly in liquid during first 15 -30 mins to ensure all areas are covered when first absorbing dye.  After first absorption, remove to a china or glass bowl, to agitate easily.  Use an upside down lid to keep silk beneath surface.
  • Transfer boiled liquid from steel pan to bowl for easy silk soaking and ocassional moving for even dye distribution.
  • Soak silk for some hours in cooled dye bath liquid.  The colour of the dye bath water is no indication of the final outcome on dry silk. Remove soon if you want a pale colour; leave overnight for stronger colour.
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22 May

Ladies bedstraw Dyed Silk

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Ladies Bedstraw growing wild above Bideford marshes River Toridge
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The roots showing tan red
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Roots dug out and flower tops

Lady's Bedstraw is found in waste ground or unused areas and near the coast.  This particularly large and well established plant rambled on the River Torridge embankment above the Bideford marshes along the Tarka Trail cycle path (N. Devon).   The reddish roots are used for dyeing: family is Madder (Rubiaceae) a well known red dye. Not easy to pull out the roots, and most were left for next year's growth.  It was immediately apparent why it is called 'bedstraw' as plant sprigs were 'springy' in the hand, making it ideal for mattresses.  Bedstraw has many herbal uses too.

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Soak roots in water for many days
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Dye bath boiled up
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Roots taken from plant ground need soaking for several days to soften, before boiling up. (I soaked mine at least a week).

Roots of plant produces a red dye, the longer soaked the deeper red. The red dye appears while soaking, and would probably dye without even boiling up.  Photos show the dye was absorbed onto the pan sides, which I believe lost dye pigment strength available; so pans must preferably be steel. Copper pot might also assist with tan tone.

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Silk is soaked in dissolved alum

Some dyes will work without soaking cloth in a premordant.  I usually do two tests. The second piece was not mordanted, and is some shades lighter on drying, but probably only because the first piece absorbed most of the pigment.

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Red dye bath with second silk soaking. First silk out.
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Two silks dyed. One will be weaker when dry
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First silk dyed removed
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Silk dyed being rinsed
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Steam press silk before bone dry to reduce creases. (don't squeeze out too tightly). The patchy areas do not show in the final dried sample.

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Contrasted with Comfrey dyed
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Bright peach tones achieved
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With Comfrey samples
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Bedstraw reddest of gold samples
Images copyright Amelia Jane Hoskins Please email for use permission.