Ladies bedstraw Dyed Silk

Amelia Hoskins / Dye Plant Collection, Dyes, Plant Dye / / 0 Comments / Like this
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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

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Images copyright Amelia Jane Hoskins Please email for use permission.