Herbal Dyemaking Part 4

Now that I have posted everything you need to get started making herbal dyes (The Basics , Part Two: Mordants and Dyemaking Part 3), I want to move into giving you recipes for actually making the dyes. These recipes are divided by the color you wish to achieve and start with a list of the herbs that you can use to achieve that color. The recipes are fairly easy to follow and shouldn’t be hard to accomplish, as long as you have read the previous posts and refer back to them as needed. For ease of reference, I have added a link to each of the first three posts above.

There is one more thing I want to address before finishing up this series. That is the cleaning and washing of fabrics dyed with herbs. For the most part, these colors are permanent and difficult to wash out completely. But the misuse of some washing detergents, sunlight and over rinsing of the fabrics can deplete the color enough to force a redo. Of course, you a free to dye and re-dye all you want. The dyes are not chemical based so they won’t thin, fray or disintegrate your fabric like bleachs and some chemical based dyes will. But as far as washing goes, please try to use very gentle detergents like washing soda or green detergents as they will deplete the dye less drastically over time. Also, when drying the fabrics, use low heat or hang outside in the shade. Direct sunlight will cause fading, even after a few hours. Rinsing with cool water is recommended but do not put through too many spin cycles and be gentle when wringing the water out. Rinsing while hanging to dry is fine, but remember to keep them out of the sun.

Here are the guidelines and recipes.


Herbs and Shades of Yellow

Herbs that produce the color and shades of yellow are:

Agrimony. Use the flowering tops. Use Alum as the Mordant. Creates Butter Yellow.

Bracken. Use the young shoots. Use Alum as the Mordant. Creates Yellowish-Green

Coltsfoot. Use the whole plant. Use Alum as the Mordant. Creates Greenish Yellow.

Comfrey. Use fresh green plant. Use Alum as the Mordant. Creates Yellow.

Chamomile (Dyers’). Use flowers. Use Alum & Cream of Tartar as Mordant. Creates Bright Yellow.

Dog’s Mercury. Use Plant tops. Use Alum as Mordant. Creates Grayish-Yellow.

Dyer’s Greenweed. Use flowering tops. Use Alum as Mordant. Creates Yellow.

Elder. Use leaves. Use Alum and Cream of Tartar as Mordant. Creates Greenish-Yellow.

Heather. Use young tips. Use Alum as Mordant. Creates Yellow.

Horsetail. Use fresh stems. Use Alum as Mordant. Creates a Creamy Yellow.

Juniper. Use fresh, crushed Berries. Use Alum as Mordant. Creates a strong Yellow.

Marigold. Use fresh petals. Use Alum & Cream of Tartar as Mordant. Creates a Pale Yellow

Onion. Use skins. Use Copper and Acetic Acid as Mordant. Creates a deep, brassy Yellow.

Onion. Use dried skins. Use Alum as a Mordant. Creates a clear, rich Yellow.

Parsley. Use fresh stalks and leaves. Use Alum as a Mordant. Creates a pale, Creamy Yellow

Privet. Use leaves & young shoots. Use Alum as Mordant. Creates a strong Yellow.

Safflowers. Use flowers. Use Alum as Mordant. Creates a Tannish-Yellow.

Saint Johns Wort. Use flowering tops. Use Chrome as a Mordant. Creates a Brownish-Yellow.

Sorrel. Use whole plant. Use Alum as Mordant. Creates a Grayish-Yellow.

Stinging Nettle. Use fresh tops. Use Alum as Mordant. Creates Fawn Yellow.

Stinging Nettle. Use fresh tops. Use Tin as a Mordant. Creates a Dark Yellow Ocher.

Tansy. Use flowering tops. Use Alum as a Mordant. Creates a Mustard Yellow.

Turmeric. Use powdered root. Use Alum as a Mordant. Creates a Golden Yellow Orange.

Woad. Use whole plant. Use Alum as a Mordant. Creates a Lemon Yellow.

Woad. Use the whole plant. Use Copper & Acetic Acid as Mordants. Creates a Greenish-Yellow.

Herbs and Shades of Grey

Herbs that produce the color and shades of gray are:

Agrimony. Use dried flowers and leaves. Use Iron as a Mordant. Creates a Brownish-Gray.

Bearberry. Use dried leaves. Use Alum as a Mordant. Creates Violet-Gray.

Dandelion. Use roots and leaves. Use Iron as a Mordant. Creates Gray.

Dock. Use scrubbed and chopped roots. Use Iron as a Mordant. Creates a strong Gray.

Dogs’ Mercury. Use plant tops. Use Alum as a Mordant. Creates a Yellow-Gray.

Elder. Use leaves. Use Copper, Acetic Acid and a pinch of Iron. Creates Olive-Gray.

Stinging Nettle. Use whole plant. Use Alum, Cream of Tartar & a pinch of Iron. Creates soft, greenish Gray.

Stinging Nettle. Use fresh plant tops. Use Iron as a Mordant. Creates Smokey Gray.

Privet. Use ripe berries. Use Alum as a Mordant. Creates Green-Gray.

Sorrel. Use whole plant. Use Alum as a Mordant. Creates a Yellowish-Gray.

Herbs and Shades of Red

Herbs that produce the color and shades of Red are:

Alkanet. Use the root. Use Acetic Acid as a Mordant. Creates a Pinkish-Brown.

Bloodroot. Use the root. Use Alum as a Mordant. Creates a Reddish Orange.

Bloodroot. Use chopped roots. Use Tin as a Mordant. Creates Orange.

Dock. Use chopped roots. Use Chrome as a Mordant. Creates a Orange-Brown.

Dyers’ Chamomile. Use dried flowers. Use Chrome as a Mordant. Creates a Tawny Orange.

Lady’s Bedstraw. Use the roots. Use Alum as a Mordant. Creates Coral Pink.

Madder. Use powdered root. Use Alum as a Mordant. Creates Carrot Red.

Madder. Use chopped roots. Use Chrome as a Mordant. Creates Reddish-Brown.

Madder. Use powdered root. Use Tin as a Mordant. Creates a Pinkish-Orange.

Madder. Use dried or powdered roots. Use Alum & Cream of Tartar. Creates Rich Tomato Red.

Onion. Use skins. Use Alum & Cream of Tartar as Mordants. Creates Orange.

Onion. Use dried skins. Use Tin as a Mordant. Creates a strong Orange.

Sorrel. Use the roots. Use Alum as a Mordant. Creates Soft Pink.

Stinging Nettle. Use fresh tops. Use Chrome as a Mordant. Creates Orange-Brown.

Turmeric. Use powdered root. Use Alum as a Mordant. Creates Golden Orange.

Turmeric. Use powdered root. Use Tin as a Mordant. Creates Hot Orange.

Yew. Use heartwood chips. Use Alum as a Mordant. Creates a Brownish-Orange.

Herbs and Shades of Green

Herbs that produce the colors and shades of Green are:

Bracken. Use young shoots. Use Alum as a Mordant. Creates a Yellow-Green.

Coltsfoot. Use the whole plant. Use Alum as a Mordant. Creates a Yellow-Green.

Comfrey. Use fresh green plant. Use Alum as a Mordant. Creates an Orangey-Green.

Dyers’ Chamomile. Use the flowers. Use Copper and Acetic Acid. Creates Olive Green.

Elder. Use the leaves. Use Alum & Cream of Tartar as a Mordant. Creates Green-Yellow.

Elder. Use the Leaves. Use Copper & Acetic Acid as a Mordant. Creates Olive.

Elder. Use the leaves. Use Copper, Acetic Acid & a pinch of Iron. Creates Gray-Green.

Heather. Use fresh branches. Use Alum & a pinch of Iron. Creates Green.

Juniper. Use dried, crushed berries. Use Alum, Cream of Tartar & Copper. Creates Brownish-Olive.

Juniper. Use fresh berries. Use Chrome as a Mordant. Creates Pale Khaki.

Nettle. Use the whole plant. Use Alum & Cream of Tartar as Mordants. Creates a Gray-Green.

Nettle. Use whole plant. Use Copper as a Mordant. Creates a Soft Green.

Privet. Use ripe berries. Use Alum as a Mordant. Creates Gray-Green.

Weld. Use whole plant. Use Copper & Acetic Acid as Mordants. Creates a light Green-Yellow.

Herbs and Shades of Cream

The herbs that create the colors and shades of Cream are:

Agrimony. Use whole dried plants. Use Chrome as a Mordant. Creates Fawn.

Blackberry. Use young shoots. Use Alum as a Mordant. Creates Creamy Fawn.

Dandelion. Use chopped plants & roots. Use Alum as a Mordant. Creates Fawn.

Juniper. Use dried, crushed berries. Use Alum as a Mordant. Creates Pale Cream.

Marigold. Use dried petals. Use Alum as a Mordant. Creates a Yellow-Cream.

Marigold. Use fresh flower heads. Use Chrome as a Mordant. Creates Yellow-Fawn.

Parsley. Use fresh leaves & stems. Use Alum as a Mordant. Creates Cream.

Safflower. Use flowers. Use Alum as a Mordant. Creates Tan.

Walnut. Use leaves. Do not use a Mordant. Will create Creamy Fawn.

Herbs and Shades of Blue

The herbs that create the colors and shades of Blue are:

Elder. Use fresh berries. Use Alum and Salt as Mordants. Creates a Blue-Purple.

Meadowsweet. Use fresh roots. Use Alum as a Mordant. Creates Black-Blue.

Stinging Nettle. Use fresh tops. Use Iron as a Mordant. Creates a Dark Gray-Blue.

Woad. Use leaves. Use Sodium Dithionate & Ammonia as Mordants. Creates Blue.

Tie-Dyeing Techniques

There are 3 basic techniques for tie-dying fabrics. Resist dyeing, in which areas of the fabrics are coated with wax or other dye repellent in order to control which areas of the fabric are dyed and with what color. Tie Dyeing, in which areas of the fabric are twisted and tied in order to control which areas of the fabric are dyed, with what color and in what patterns. And Batik Dyeing, in which areas of the fabric are waxed off in shapes and forms in order to create specific pictures or forms on the dyed surface.

The most common form of tie-dyeing is done with the method of resist dyeing. Wax is applied to areas of the fabric that are not to be dyed, thereby creating a specific pattern on the surface of the fabric. Unwaxed areas of the fabric are the only areas that will absorb the dye. The wax is often applied with a Javanese tool known as a “tjanting”. When the tjanting is trailed or drawn over the fabric, a thin line of wax is leaked onto the cloth. This tool allows the artist or designer to draw out specific patterns on the fabric.

Similar to resist dyeing is Batiking. It, too, uses a wax to design patterns on the fabric before dyeing. Batik dyeing often uses molds or “findings” to create larger or familiar patterns on the fabric. For instance, the bottom of a glass will create a repetitive pattern of similar circles, intertwined, side by side or however the artist wishes to arrange them. Such stamps or molds can be made from simple household items like nuts, screws, coins, bolts, thimbles or even cookie cutters. Sable brushes are often used in Batiking. Brushes require a very hot wax in order not to dry swiftly on the bristles and become hard.

In Batiking and Resist Dyeing, the wax is a combination of Paraffin and Beeswax. Skilled and practiced Artists all have their own special blends. Experimentation leads to perfection eventually. In general, the wax should have a higher proportion of beeswax than paraffin. Beeswax keeps the wax soft (but not too much or it will be too soft and watery). Paraffin stiffens the wax and too much of it will produce a “crackle” effect. If you wish to have a “crackle” effect, as is sometimes desirable in Batiking, then the wax should be mostly Paraffin. In creating the wax most useful for both of these techniques, the wax should be heated to about 170 degrees fahrenheit. A small variation of 10 degrees either way won’t make much difference, however. Just be sure that the wax is hot enough to stay fluid for a long enough period but not so hot and fluid that it just runs through the fabric.

Fabrics preferable for Batiking and Resistance Dyeing are natural fibers like Cotton, Linen and Viscose Rayon, which are all cellulose fibers. If you use protein fibers like Silk or Wool then you must watch closely the intensity of the dye, which tends to be greater and darker with Silk and Wool. Synthetic fibers should NOT be used for this sort of dyeing. They don’t take and hold the colors brightly or evenly. Very thin Silk or very thick Wool are not recommended, either. Very thin fabrics tend to bleed the dye and lose it. Thick fabrics do not take.

During the dyeing process, the dye bath should be kept at a temperature of about 110 degrees fahrenheit. Let it cool to this temperature before using. A few degrees less is no problem. Water much hotter than this will melt the wax during this process and destroy the project.

The other popular method of fabric dyeing is Tie-Dyeing, where fabric is tied, sewn or twisted in order to create patterns on the fabric. The easiest method is to just tie it up in various ways and testing the dyeing process to see what happens. Some of the art produced this way is very beautiful but also very familiar. Most tie dyes are done in this fashion and the many variations possible with this process have been created, recreated and distributed on a large scale. Tying the fabric in a consistent pattern will create a common design, such as spirals, circles, zig zags or stripes. Sewing the fabric up in bunches is another method of tye dieing. It allows more control over exactly what is “tied off” and what is not. You can sew on different designs or patterns that are brought out by the dyeing process. Use common sewing thread, do not tie it off and remove it only after the fabric has completely dried. It takes great practice and care to ensure that the dye does not bleed or travel onto unwanted areas of the fabric in the tie dyeing process. Fabric must be tied off tightly or dye will sneak into areas wanted for other colors or to be left white. The best fabric for tye dieing is cotton, as evidenced by the large amount of tie dyed t-shirts on the market. Silks, wools and other fabrics present problems. Wool is thick and ungainly and hard to tie. Silk is soft, crinkly and porous. Cotton or Linen is the easiest fabric to use.

With all methods of tie dyeing, you will need several colors of dye and, therefor, several dye baths. You will create the first dye bath and soak the tied fabric in it. As the fabric dries, and it must dry before being retied and redyed, you will be creating the next dye bath. This can be a long, arduous process of tying or sewing fabric, creating dye baths, dipping, removing, drying, untying, retying, creating new dye baths and dipping again. It is a lot of work but the product can be unusual, beautiful and useful. Batiking large pieces of Silk, Linen or Wool can create one of a kind blankets, curtains, wall hangings and art. Tie dyeing can help personalize your clothing in a way that nothing else can. Combining dyeing of the fabric with the application of appliques, transfers or fabric painting can create gorgeous, one of kind works of art. It is up to you. But always remember to have everything in place before you start in order to make the process a little easier. The making and remaking of dye baths, heated to just the right temperatures and mixed to exactly the right colors is the most time consuming portion of the project. Remember that making up baths in advance is not a solution. The baths will cool down too much and will have to be reheated in turn, perhaps altering the color in an undesirable way.

Basic Dyeing Methods

There are two common methods of dyeing with Herbs and plants. The first is to boil the plant in water until all it’s color is extracted and then use the water as a dye. The second method is to simmer the plant and the fabric together. The first method is most suitable for tough plants, parts, stems and roots. The second method is best used with fresh leaves and flowers. As a rough guide, the plant material should be equal in either weight or height to the material. For very strong colors, it should be double that. When testing a new dye, try using a small selection of various natural wools in order to get a clear picture of the actual color produced.

In using method number one, be sure to chop and crush all tough plants and parts completely. If they are very stringy and fibrous, leave them to soak in soft water overnight to soften them. Put the crushed and chopped plants and parts into a large pot and barely cover with water. This should be rainwater or soft water that has been treated. Bring this slowly to a boil and simmer gently for 1-3 hours. Strain, discard the plants and leave the liquid to cool. Slip the wetted, mordanted Wool into the dye. Bring very slowly to a simmering point, which should take about an hour. Simmer gently for a second hour. When testing a dye, use small skeins of natural wool, leaving each in for various periods of time. This means the first handful of wool should be left for 15 minutes, the second for a half hour, the third for an hour and so on, to determine at what level you can achieve what intensity and depth of color. Some colors require hours of bathing. Remove the wool from the bath, rinse with warm water, then cool water, several times and then line dry. After it is completely dried, you will have a clear picture of the kind of color you have created.

For the second method, make alternate layers of the flowers and leaves and layers of fabric in the dye pot. The first and last layers should be the plant material. Just cover with cold rainwater or soft purified water and heat very slowly, taking at least an hour to reach simmering point. Simmer for about an hour, following the remaining instructions as for method one.

Recipes for Basic Herbal Dyes

Agrimony

Mordant: Chrome

Use 7oz whole, fresh or dried flowers, stems and leaves.
Follow as for dyeing method number one.
Color produced: Fawn

Mordant: Iron

Use 7 oz whole dried leaves.
Follow as for dyeing method number one.
Color produced: Brownish Gray

Bloodroot

Mordant: Alum and Cream of Tartar

Use 4oz fresh or dried chopped roots.
Soak roots overnight in soft, tepid water and include the water in the dye bath.
Follow dyeing method number two.
Color produced: Red

Mordant: Tin

Use 4 oz fresh crushed roots.
Soak these roots overnight in soft tepid water and include this water in the dye bath.
Follow dyeing method number two.
Color produced: Orange

Comfrey

Mordant: Tin

Use 1 pound of fresh leaves, stalks and flowers
Follow dyeing method number two.
Color produced: Acid Yellow

Mordant: Chrome

Use 1 pound of fresh flowers
Follow dyeing method number two.
Color produced: Bright Greenish Orange

Dandelion

Mordant: Alum and Cream of Tartar

Use 7oz scrubbed, chopped Dandelion plants
Follow dyeing method number one.
Color produced: Fawn

Dock

Mordant: Iron and Cream of Tartar

Use 1 1/2 lbs of fresh, scrubbed and chopped Dock Roots
Boil for two (2) hours and strain
Follow dyeing method number one.
Color produced: Gray

Dyer’s Chamomile

Mordant: Chrome

Use 7oz fresh flowers
Put the flowerheads in a loose cheesecloth bag
Follow dyeing method number two
Simmer wool for 30 minutes
Color produced: Orange

Horsetail

Mordant: Chrome

Use 1 1/2 lb fresh plants
Follow dye method number two
Color produced: Yellow Ocher

Juniper

Mordant: Alum and Cream of Tartar

Use 4oz fresh, crushed Berries
Boil berries for three (3) hours
Follow dye method number one
Color produced: Cream/Fawn

Madder

Mordant: Alum and Cream of Tartar

Use 3oz powdered Root
Mix this to a paste with hard water
Gradually dilute this with enough water to cover the fabric
Follow dye method number one
Color produced: Red

Marigold

Mordant: Alum and Cream of Tartar

Use 11oz of fresh flowerheads or 4oz dried flower petals
For fresh flowerheads, follow dye method number two
For dried petals, place them in a cheesecloth bag and follow method number two
Color produced: Pale Yellow

Onion

Mordant: Alum and Cream of Tartar

Use 4oz dried Onion skins
Boil in soft water for 2 hours
Follow dye method number one
Color produced: Yellow

Mordant: Chrome

Use 4oz dried Onion Skins
Boil in soft water for an hour
Follow dye method number one
Color produced: Brown

Mordant: Iron

Use 4oz dried Onion Skins
Boil in soft water until skins soften
Follow dye method number one
Color produced: Dark Brown

Mordant: Tin

Use 4oz fresh Onion Skins
Follow dye method number two
Color produced: Orange

Parsley

Mordant: Alum

Use 8oz fresh stalks and leaves
Follow method number two
Color produced: Yellow

St Johns Wort

Mordant: Chrome

Use 9oz (or more) chopped flowering tops
Put these fresh tops in a cheesecloth bag
Follow dyeing method number two
Color produced: Yellow

Sorrel

Mordant: Chrome

Use 8oz fresh, chopped stalks, leaves or flowers
Use wild Sorrel if you can
Follow dyeing method number one
Color produced: Yellow Fawn

Stinging Nettle

Mordant: Alum and Cream of Tartar

First of all: WEAR GLOVES!!
Use 8oz fresh Nettle tops
Follow dyeing method number two
Color produced: Yellow

Mordant: Chrome

Use 8oz of fresh Nettle
Follow dyeing method number two
Color produced: Orange

Mordant: Iron

Use 8oz of fresh Nettle tops and flowers
Follow dyeing method number two
Color produced: Smokey Gray
Mordant: Tin

Use 8oz fresh Nettle
Follow dyeing method number two
Color produced: Dark Yellow

Tansy

Mordant: Tin

Use 4 oz fresh Tansy leaves
Follow dyeing method number two
Color produced: Lemon Yellow

Turmeric

Mordant: Chrome

Use 4oz powdered Turmeric
Dissolve the Turmeric in a little boiling water
Strain through a peice of cheesecloth
Tie up any undissolved dye in the cheesecloth and add to the dye bath
Add all dissolved dye to the dye bath
Follow dyeing method number two
Color produced: Light Orange

Mordant: Tin

Use 4 oz powdered Turmeric
Dissolve the spice in boiling water
Strain through a cheesecloth and add water to dye bath
Tie up remaining undissolved spice in cheesecloth
Add cheesecloth to dye bath
Follow method number two
Color produced: Hot Orange

Weld

Mordant: Alum and Cream of Tartar
Use 4oz whole flowering plants
Follow dyeing method number one
Simmer this plant for at least a full 2 hours
Color produced: Bright Yellow

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