Tag Archives: petunia

Natural dyeing

I’ve been flirting with natural dyeing for a long time now but kept on postponing actually doing any of it for a series of “reasons” (read; excuses): I didn’t have the space, I didn’t have a garden, couldn’t find the proper plants, was afraid it would hurt the cats…

Eventually I came across a person selling dye stuff and bought some.  This was two years ago, and yet, I never got around to trying it out (‘it’s so much work… you have to add mordant to the fiber…” and other such excuses).

Time did what time usually does and passes by.  One day, last month I was bored and wanted to try something new.  I had the dye stuff, the mordants…well, pretty much everything.  I also had a backyard all of my own and some cool plants I could try to use (more on that later), so…why not?

I took out some log wood out of its package, follow the instructions on how to dye and this came out:

  The yarn on the left is a merino/stelina mix and the one on the right is a cotton thread.  I wasn’t expecting such rich, saturated colors :D.  In fact, I thought I’d get a very subdued color, so I was – ahem – generous on the amount of log wood I used.  I took the wood chips out of the dye bath, dried them and reused them to do another dye bath that still yielded good results.

With such great results from my first experiment, I took out some madder root I’ve bought from the same person who sold me the log wood and gave it a go.
I have to say the results were less than satisfying, hence the lack of pictures of that one.  I probably did something wrong.  It’s also possible that the roots were too old…I might buy some more and try a second time, but I rather experiment with other plants.

Now, the really cool thing (and the reason behind this post) is that I’ve been experimenting with other natural dyes.  At the beginning of the spring, we bought a Black Velvet Petunia plant. 

It has, as the name implies, black flowers and I wondered if I could use them to dye with.
I picked a few withered ones, put them in a jar and added water.  To my surprise, almost immediately a lovely blue tint began to color the water:
  I set the jar out in the sun and the liquid became darker and darker:
  While the jar sat out in the sun, I prepared a few different fibers to be dyed.  I used alum and cream of tartar as mordant on some wool, silk and bamboo (the wool and bamboo are yarns and the silk is spinning fiber).
I’ve been reading about safflower as a dye and decided I would try acid dyeing too.  There is so much color (I won’t use the word dye yet, as I’m not sure if it will actually dye or just stain), that I drained the dark liquid and was able to extract two more jars full of colored liquid.
To the third jar full (which still had the flowers in it), I added some citric acid and the liquid turned a dark fuchsia color.  I let it all sit over night and on the next day I applied heat to the baths.

Below are the results I got.  I haven’t washed anything yet and am keeping my fingers crossed that the color will remain in the fiber and not run down the sink.  The pinks on the left are wool (merino) and silk.  I got the color by adding citric acid to the bath and heat set (I hope) in the crock pot over low heat.  I noticed that as I squeezed the flowers more color came out.

  The blue/green/grey ones are (in order from left to right): bamboo, silk and merino.  The colors were obtained by placing all of it inside a big plastic container under the sun for the whole day (the fibers were previously mordanted with alum and cream of tartar).

I have two petunia plants outside (same color) and I collect the flowers once they wither and place them in a ziplock bag in the freezer.  Once I wash everything I’ll make another post to let you know if the colors remain.