So off and on I will write about dye plants, even though most of the important dye plants are unknown to most people.
|Spinach as a dye; |
package of frozen spinach
The mesh bag keeps spinach
bits out of the yarn
Natural dyeing is a skill because you can't just pour the dyebath over cloth and get a satisfactory result.
|Look! Spinach dye.|
To use my spinach dye, I tossed a teaspoon alum into the pot, dissolved it, added yarn, about 25 g skein of wet wool, and heated it, without boiling, for 1 hour.
Here's the principle: Getting the fiber to change color in natural dyeing is easy. Getting it to change to a particular color can be very difficult. Precise measurements help.
Alum is any of several aluminum salts-- dyeing needs the aluminum molecule not whatever salt is attached to it. Grocery stores used to sell it for pickling, today you might ask the pharmacy department, look in a hobby supply store, or shop dye suppliers online.
The spinach bath with alum should give you a nice bright yellow yarn. Rinse thoroughly.
Prudent dyers have pans and spoons that are used only for dyeing. Spinach juice won't hurt anyone and a teaspoon of alum, while it should not be eaten, is not very toxic dissolved in 2 quarts of water, but the next dye plant might not be safe. Use designated pots and spoons.
|colors from spinach|
Lots of other plants work like spinach: leaves of apple (Malus, specifics in Sheron's blog ), aspen and cottonwood (Populus spp.), dock (Rumex), willow (Salix), field bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis) (see Sheron's blog on bindweed), rabbitbrush (Ericameria nauseous), to name just a few.
In 1856 English chemist William Henry Perkin stumbled on the first aniline dye and all these natiral dyes became obsolete almost over night. The aniline dyes were readily produced in large quantities for very low prices. They revolutionized color--everyone could now afford bright colored clothes and accessories.
Dyeing with local plants is a tradition that before 1850 goes back millennia in virtually every culture. It is great fun!
Thank you, Sheron of Foxryde Gardens, for hosting the "if you can cook spinach you can dye" demo.