Bubble bubble what’s this trubble? Dyeing with plants: try outs.

I have no idea whether this works… but I thought, with all the plants that grow around the cabin, why not try some out in a hot pan simultaneously to see if they yield colour?

Today is a glorious Summer’s day and I went around the little patch of forest and meadow and vandalized plants. Especially Spirea Douglassii (Hackwood) which is a terrible invader here. But also Hazel (hazelaar), Geranium robertianum (robertskruid), Ficus (vijgenboom), Acer campestre (Spaanse aak), Ribes, Dock (zuring) and Fern (varen).

Special special: Sanguisorba officinalis (Grote Pimpernel) and Cow Parsnip (Berenklauw):

One is sparce and the other dangerous.
“Cow Parsnip” is way too nice a name for this plant. In Dutch we call it “Bear’s scratch” because that’s what your skin looks like when you get the sap of this plant on it.

So I spend some time outside ripping leafs and filling bags. Being very careful not to touch any of the sap of the Bears Paw.

Normally you boil the plant stuffs. Or you ferment them. Or some other magic process to release the dye from the plant.
Once you’ve got the dye (in water solub..ed?) you take out the plant bits, add some mordanted wool and follow the proces for dyeing wool (heat, cool).

But you can also do everything at once. Although you’d be heating wool for hours then and have to be careful not to boil it (felting).
You might call this “a lazy dyers dye pot”.

I had a little system to add some spinning fibres, alum and water to each bag:

Each bag also got a little piece of string with knots in it. A sort of code to be able to identify which plant is in the back:

All the bags went into my big dye pan. I made sure all the openings where towards the top. (When filling them I blew into each bag, as if to fill up a balloon, to check for leaks. I left some out that were damaged.)

Here they are, all cosy together in a bath of hot water. Let simmer for a few hours. Leave to cool. I’ll probably leave it for a few days even.

They’ve simmered for one hour now and I can give some preliminary results:

  • stems give no colour.
  • I expect a lot of beige and old granny panty colour
  • or yellow
  • the flowers of the Grote Pimpernel give purple! It’s probably not light fast, flowers seldom are. But what a treat!

The wool in this little bag is still white, the cut up Hackwood stems do nothing. Yet?

Yellow and beige is typical for plant dyeing:

The dangerous Bear’s Claw, identifiable with a red string. Yellow wool:


You can hardly see the wool amongst the purple flower heads. Because the wool is purple too. Yay!

We’ll see tomorrow what’s what. I’ll have another sneak peak after it has cooled the whole night.

It smells weird in my kitchen. A bit soapy – veggie soupy. And a bit fishy but that’s my dinner that’s on the stove, next to the dye pot.


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