winter dye adventures, part 1

I always forget that i have access to plant materials that are suitable for dyeing with! Though i enjoy my DayJob, i try not to bring it home, except for the occasional orchid bloom, one gerb, some old roses, or the rare exotic specimen, but a few days ago paging through the FB dross and pearls, i chanced upon some of Morgen Bardati’s work, and lo and behold–a gorgeous deep green from privet. And privet just happens to be “seasonal” right now, though an import still, and since it readily falls apart, and one crappy scrappy stem is usually left after arranging with flowers, it behooved me to bring some home and try it.

Had to do a little research first, as i was afraid it was one of those temperamental ineedtobefresh things. Not a lot online but i did discover that it’s TOXIC, to humans AND animals. As with *all* natural dyes, i NEVER EVER NEVER assume—  just because it’s “natural” does NOT mean it’s SAFE. Seriously, some natural dyes are as scarey as synthetics, so don’t fall for the kitchenscrap all encompassing goodness that some sites breathily exclaim is so pure/eco-conscious/earthmagic.

So, the most i could find was boil up the leaves, chopped stems and (bruised) berries, throw in some alum, and see what happens.

Meh. Mind you, my first experiment was with a (gloved!) handful of berries and one chopped up stem/branch, so there wasn’t a lot of colour, but it did colour, and the colour was decidely green. Pale green. Again, small amount of plant material.

More research yielded up using salt–i’m guessing Glauber’s Salt, a chemical used by a lot of wool dyers. Not table salt, as again the Ensorcelled Cauldron Witches would have you believe to  “set” colours, but Sodium Sulphate. Well, i don’t have any, but it *is* a chemical used in making soda ash, and that i have, so i threw a wee bit of that in.

Instant colour change. Yellowy-greeny-yellow. Standard plant colour from a million plants!!!!!!

So, it being the time of year when we are ordering a lot of stuff for Valentine’s Day, i asked for a whole bunch of it for myself to play with.

privetI added the chopped stems and leaves to the first pot and the second pot was just the berries.

No greens however, as i saw in Morgen’s photo…………

Because the first pot had soda ash in it, my threads (silk and wool) and silk scraps are yellowy.


The berry pot *looks* exciting, but i’m betting i’ll get greyed tones with a HINT of lavender, not the purple here.

privet-berries-dyebath-a  These pots will sit for a couple of days at least.

Further tests will be done with different mordants and modifiers later in the week, as will light fastness tests. If i get the colours i think i’m going to end up with, i won’t use privet again. You never know though what results you will get, due to the season, where the material came from, how fresh it is and what your water does. It’s good to experiment, but not all outcomes are worth repeating, even if “successful”—as i have often mentioned, you can get yellow from so many local plants that specialty ordering is not the way to go. (The privet is not cheap, being $45 for FIVE branches–and yes i got a discount as staff so paid half of that, but still……)



There was quite a bitter exchange on one of the natural dye groups i’m in, with one ecoprinter getting all huffy saying that “Are you people mad, eco dyeing causes no harm.Listen lady there are groups that have been doing this eco dyeing for years, I suggest you research that and them and stop pulling yr hair out. ” WHAT THE FUCK???? This is exactly the mind set that reputable, safety conscious, responsible dyers get our panties in knots about. If you want to poison yourself, your dog or kids and husbands, by all means cook up that possibly toxic plant in the same pot you cook the soup in. That would be called Darwinian Karma. However, if you do the research, you’ll know what the possible dangers are.




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