Tag Archives: natural dyes

Apple Leaf Dye

We planted an espalier apple tree 2 years ago when we moved to our new property. This year we had our first successful apple crop.

Espalier Apple Tree
Espalier Apple Tree

Apples
Apples

Every fruit tree needs occasional pruning. When you prune the small branches – do not throw them away. Both the leaves and the twigs and branches can be used for natural dyeing.
I separated the leaves from the branches and put them into buckets to store them for later use.

Apple Tree Leaves
Apple Tree Leaves

I filled a dyepot with some of the apple leaves (the rest of the leaves will be used later for another dye session.)
I added water and put the dyepot onto boil. I let it simmer for a few hours and then turned off the heat and let the dye solution sit overnight. I find that when working with plant dyes, it is better to leave them for several hours/overnight to allow more of the dye to soak out of the plant and into the water.

Apple leaves can be dyed without mordant as there are some natural tannins in the leaves.
I tested this by mordanting one skein in an alum mordant and leaving one wool skein unmordanted.

The following day, I reheated the apple leaf dye, leaving the leaves in the dyepot. I added the 2 skeins of wool into the dyepot and let them simmer for a few hours, stirring the pot from time to time.
I then turned off the heat and left the wool yarn to soak in the dye stock overnight. Again, I find that I get much stronger colours with natural dyes if I leave them in the dye solution overnight. Natural dyeing is a slow process, not to be rushed.

Apple Leaf Yarn
Apple Leaf Yarn
Apple Leaf Dyed Yarn
Apple Leaf Dyed Yarn
Apple Leaf Dyed Handspun
Apple Leaf Dyed Handspun

Both the mordanted and unmordanted yarns gave a lovely golden shade of yellow. I found that the alum mordanted yarn was slightly brighter in shade.

I am pleased that I still have lots of apple leaves for another dye project and that the apple tree bark awaits for another dye day.

More About Natural Dyes
How to Scour and Mordant Cotton and Linen
How to Make an Alum Mordant: how_alum_mordant
Brazilwood Dye

Natural Plant Dye Books

The Art and Science of Natural Dyes: Principles, Experiments, and Results

Wild Color, Revised and Updated Edition: The Complete Guide to Making and Using Natural Dyes

True Colors: World Masters of Natural Dyes and Pigments

Eco Colour: Botanical Dyes for Beautiful Textiles

A Weaver’s Garden: Growing Plants for Natural Dyes and Fibers

Natural Dyes

Handspun Yarn on EBay

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Hand spun Art Yarn BFL Wool Natural Dyes Madder Knit Crochet Nalbinding Weaving

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Hand spun Art Yarn Romney Wool Knit Crochet Nalbinding Weaving Madder 35gr

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Hand spun Art Yarn Romney Wool Knitting Crochet Nalbinding Weaving Green

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Raanu

A Raanu rug was traditionally a flat weave weft faced handwoven wall hanging that was sometimes also used as a bed covering. The warp is made of cotton rug yarn or sometimes linen yarn, and the weft is woven of multicoloured fine wool yarns, often a single ply. The weave structure is a repp weave and the weft is beaten down firmly so that the warp yarns are fully covered.

The earliest Raanu date back to the 1600’s. The Saami wove Raanu (Rátnu, Rádno, Grene) and used them as wall coverings in their tents and sod huts. The designs of the Raanu depicted the colours of the landscape scenes around them and brought some colour into their homes during the dark and long winter nights. Raanu were also woven in many parts of Finland. In the 1960-70’s Raanu again became popular and were displayed on the walls of many Finnish and Scandinavian homes.

I thought that I would weave a Raanu based on one of my favourite places in the UK, West Wittering Beach. The photo is by Robert Lane.

West Wittering Beach
West Wittering Beach

I am weaving this Raanu with yarns that I have dyed with natural dyes. The dyes I have used are:
Indigo, Logwood, Madder Root, Brazilwood, Alkanet Root, Indian Barberry, Flame of the Forest

Raanu Rug Weaving
Raanu Rug Weaving

Warp Yarn: Cotton Rug Warp 12/9 1900 m/kg
Weft Yarn: Sport Weight Wool 2600 m/kg
Sett: No. 30 Reed (approx 6 epi)
Width in Reed: 60 cm
PPI: 30 ppi
Weave Structure: Repp Weave

The weft yarns must be beaten firmly. Throw the shuttle. Beat. Change shed. Beat again before throwing the next weft.

West Wittering Beach Raanu
West Wittering Beach Raanu

Raanu Mallit
Raanu – Historical Weave Structures
Raanu or Ryijy
Raanu Minimalist Design
Peilikäs raanu as a mirror

Finnish Heritage Museum
Raanu Weaving

Weaving Books
The Weaver’s Companion (The Companion Series)
The Weaver’s Companion (The Companion Series)
Learning to Weave
The Big Book of Weaving: Handweaving in the Swedish Tradition: Techniques, Patterns, Designs and Materials

Weaving on Ebay

A Nice Rustic Portable Baby Inkle Weaving Loom with Tool/Instructions

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Vintage Box Tape Inkle Weaving Loom Table Top

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Hazards of Loom Dust

My studio is filled with weaving looms of many sizes ranging from large floor looms, to 4 shaft table looms, band looms and inkle looms. If you are a weaver, you will have noticed that during weaving, dust bunnies collect under the loom. In the past, I haven’t been too concerned about this except to pull out my vacuum cleaner and clean it up.

However, a few months ago I caught that flu bug that has been making its rounds, with one of the symptoms being an annoying cough that doesn’t seem to go away. After about a week, the cough seemed to clear up, but another week later, it came back. Many of my neighbours had it, and also friends in Canada said it was making the rounds there as well. So I wasn’t too concerned about the cough, and thought it was just more of the same thing. I did notice that my cough seemed to be worse about a month ago when I wove a lengthy linen warp. The loom dust under my loom was very fine, much more so than when weaving with wool yarns.

Over the recent months, I have also made a transition to dyeing wool and cotton yarns using natural dyes, rather than the vinegar/acid based dyes that I have used previously. Many of the natural dyes come in fine ground powder form, often using wood chips such as birch bark, logwood, brazilwood, madder root. The fine powder is placed into the dyepot, the pre-mordanted yarn is steeped in the dyebath for a few hours and then removed. The yarn is rinsed out in the sink and hung up to dry. After drying, there is still a lot of fine wood chip dye residue left on the yarn. I rewind the skeins into yarn balls or reskein. During this process, much of the natural dye residue falls off. I vacuum the fine dust from the floor.

A few days ago, I started to weave a Sami style band on my table loom. I was using a combination of wool and natural unbleached cotton yarns. I dyed the yarns using natural dyes.

Woven Sami Band
Woven Sami Band

After I wove for a bit, I noticed that some loom dust was collecting on the table, under the loom. I vacuumed this up in the evening before I left the studio. The next morning I returned to weaving this band. After about 2 hours, I had another terrible coughing fit. And again, I noticed an accumulation of loom dust under the table loom.

And I start to wonder, how much of this fine dye dust or loom dust am I breathing in? Can this be a cause of my almost chronic cough?
At that point I took some allergy medication and went out for a walk in the fresh air. My breathing seemed to clear up and I had a full nights restful sleep. The following day, I was away and didn’t go into the studio. I have felt much better the past few days with very little coughing.
I spend a few hours on trusty Google to research about the environmental hazards of the craft and textile work that I do.
I have since ordered an air purifier (Vax ACAMV101 Pure Air 300 Air Purifier) and dust ventilation masks.
I looked for an air purifier that has high CADR ratings hoping that it will be effective in clearing much of the harmful dust from the air.
I am now waiting for the air purifier and dust masks to be delivered before I continue working in the studio.

Air Purifier
Air Purifier

This air purifier really does work. I leave it running on the Auto setting during the day. When I wind a skein of yarn from the swift into a ball, the green light changes to Red and the fan comes on at full speed. And when I am at my loom weaving a rug, the air purifier also goes into action with lights glowing red, and fan speeding up. After a weaving session, I now set the fan speed to high for about an hour, so it can continue to clear the air for my next return to the studio.

Best Air Purifiers – Trusted Reviews
Blueair Classic 203 Slim HepaSilent Air-Purification System, Allergy and Dust Reducer, Small Rooms 237 sq. ft., White
3M 8511PB1-A-PS Particulate N95 Respirator with Valve, 10-Pack

As natural dyers we are aware that many mordants used in natural dyes can be dangerous to your health. For example, Rhubarb leaves are used as a mordant but are high in oxalic acid that is corrosive, and can cause acid burns, ulcers, and is hazardous by skin contact, inhalation, and ingestion. Sodium hydrosulphite or sodium diothinate which is often used when creating an indigo vat, can be explosive when added too quickly to the vat. When heated or allowed to stand in basic solution, sodium hydrosulfite decomposes to form highly toxic sulfur dioxide gas. For those who use acid dyes, vinegar or acetic acid fumes can cause damage to the lining of the nose, throat and lungs.
Some natural dyes themselves also contain toxic chemicals. For example, Logwood contains hematein or hematoxlyn can be poisonous if inhaled, absorbed through the skin or ingested. Madder root contains alizarin and purpurin that have been associated with kidney damage in animal experiments.
Wood chips and wood dust such as birch bark, logwood and other tree barks are also used as natural dyes but can also pose dangers to your health. Breathing in wood dust can cause allergic reactions, asthma as well as nose and lung cancer.

I also tend to have a high sensitivity to moulds, so I try to avoid working with natural dye fermentation types of dyes. The indigo vats that I have seem to be ok, but I notice that as soon as the natural dye pots start to ferment (usually after a few days) they make me ill. So I dispose of them immediately. As lovely as some of the natural fermented colours can be, in my opinion, it’s not worth the health risk to myself.

Although I work on a small scale and not in a large industrial setting, textile hazards are still something to think about. Be careful when handling any type of dyestuff or mordant, even if it is ‘natural’. Wear appropriate protective gear, gloves, facemasks, clothing and ensure that your studio has good ventilation.

References:
Textile Dust and Endotoxins
Exposure to Dust and Endotoxin in Textile Processing Workers
Cotton Dust – Impact On Human Health And Environment In The Textile Industry
A Study on Health Issues of Weavers (Handloom Weaving)

Natural Dyes and Dye Safety

Dyes and dyeing – Safety
Dyes Synthetic and Natural
10 Toxic Chemicals To Avoid In Your Products
Toxicity and Environmental Damage Associated with Logwood and Other Natural Dyes
Health Hazards – Wood Dust
Dyeing Safely Overview
Natural Dyes International

Weaving Books

The Weaver’s Companion (The Companion Series)
Learning to Weave

The Big Book of Weaving: Handweaving in the Swedish Tradition: Techniques, Patterns, Designs and Materials

Weaving on Ebay

Table top weaving loom attic find hardwood

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Vintage Box Tape Inkle Weaving Loom Table Top

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Woad Vat

The frosts are coming so it was time to cut back all of my Woad and Japanese Indigo plants. I harvested about 800 grams of fresh leaves from about 10 woad plants and about 250 grams of fresh leaves from the Japanese Indigo plants.

There are many different instructions on how to make a Woad or Japanese Indigo vat using fresh leaves. I read through several and thought I would try my own approach. I followed a similar procedure for both the Woad and Japanese Indigo vats.

The directions I’ve read warn that Woad (or Japanese Indigo) is sensitive to hot water >90 Deg C yet the woad needs to be heated up to help release the indigo pigment.

I used hot tap water rather than heating this on the stove, so I could control the amount of heat. Since my tap water wasn’t quite hot enough, I added a kettle full of heated water to the water to raise the temp to about 80 deg. C. I cut the woad leaves into small pieces and let them soak in the hot water for about an hour.


Apparently 115 deg F (or 46 deg C) supposed to be the optimum temperature for the release of Indigo pigment from the plants.
When the temperature decreased to <50 deg C I scooped the cut leaves into an organza mesh bag. I thought that this would help prevent the messy leaf sediment in the bottom of the indigo vat. Then I transferred the Woad dye water into a large plastic bucket. I thought I would try to use a fructose fermentation method, following Michael Garcia's 1,2,3 guidelines, as I've had good success with my previous Fructose Indigo vat.
I have no idea how much indigo pigment is really in the leaves, so I added 20 grams of Calcium Hydroxide to the indigo vat and 40 grams of Fructose. The pH rose to 10.4.
I put the organza mesh bag filled with the Woad leaves back into the bucket and put the lid onto the vat. I did the same with the Japanese Indigo vat.
I checked both of the vats about an hour later and was pleased to see some blue bubbles and the organza bags turning blue.

Japanese Indigo Vat
Japanese Indigo Vat

Woad Vat
Woad Vat

Now I wait patiently.. perhaps tomorrow I can dye some beautiful indigo grown in my own garden.

Books
Indigo from Seed to Dye

Indigo: Dye It, Make It: Techniques from plain and dip-dyeing to tie-dyeing and batik, in natural indigo blue

Wild Color, Revised and Updated Edition: The Complete Guide to Making and Using Natural Dyes

Natural Dyes

The Art and Craft of Natural Dyeing: Traditional Recipes for Modern Use

References
An Easy Organic Indigo Vat
Preparing to Dye with Natural Indigo
Creating a Natural Indigo Dye Reduction Vat
Cold Water Fresh Leaf Indigo Vat Dyeing
Indigo Vat Basics
Japanese Indigo

Dyes and Mordants on Ebay

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Eucalyptus Leaves Dye Recipe

Eucalyptus Dye Recipe for Linen, Cotton and Cellulose Fibres
On a recent trip to Greece, I collected some Eucalyptus leaves and took them home in my suitcase. I let them dry and then crushed them for use in my dyepot.

for 100 grams of fibre
50 grams dried Eucalyptus Leaves
Put crushed Eucalyptus leaves into dye pot.
Let simmer in dyepot for +1 hour at 50 deg.
Add pre-mordanted wool yarn and sample fabrics.
Let simmer in dyepot for +1 hour.
Remove the wool yarn. Let this cool and rinse thoroughly to remove the excess dye powder.
Turn the heat off the dyepot and leave the linen and cotton samples to soak overnight. More colour will continue to develop as the dyebath cools.

Eucalyptus Leaves Natural dye
Eucalyptus Leaves Natural dye

All cellulose fibres, yarns and fabrics must be scoured prior to mordanting or dyeing. Please see my previous article on how to do this.
How to Scour Linen

For these samples, I used several different linen and cotton fabrics as well as wool yarn.

Linen and Cotton Fabric Samples
Linen and Cotton Fabric Samples

Unbleached Cotton
Bleached Linen
Linen/Cotton Blend
Natural Linen (light weight)
Natural Linen (heavy weight)

More about Plant Dyed Yarns
Madder Root Dye Recipe
Brazilwood Dye Recipe
Himalayan Rhubarb Dye

Paivatar – Plant Dyed Wool Yarns
Look for some of my plant dyed yarns at my PaivatarYarn Shop on Etsy.

Natural Plant Dyed Wool Yarn
Natural Plant Dyed Wool Yarn

Indigo from Seed to Dye

Indigo: Dye It, Make It: Techniques from plain and dip-dyeing to tie-dyeing and batik, in natural indigo blue

Wild Color, Revised and Updated Edition: The Complete Guide to Making and Using Natural Dyes

Natural Dyes

The Art and Craft of Natural Dyeing: Traditional Recipes for Modern Use

Dyes and Mordants on Ebay

Alum - Potassium Aluminum Sulfate - Mordant - Potash Alum - 4 oz

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Madder Root Powder (Rubia tinctorum) FREE SHIPPING natural colorant 1 oz - 1 lb

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Alum - Potassium Aluminum Sulfate - Mordant - Potash Alum - 2 oz - FREE SHIPPING

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Brazilwood Dye

Brazilwood Dye Recipe for Linen, Cotton and Cellulose Fibres
Caesalpinia Sappan

for 100 grams of fibre
20 grams Brazilwood powder – Caesalpinia Sappan
Put Brazilwood dye powder into dye pot.
Let simmer in dyepot for +1 hour at 50 deg.
Add pre-mordanted wool yarn and sample fabrics.
Let simmer in dyepot for +1 hour.
Remove the wool yarn. Let this cool and rinse thoroughly to remove the excess dye powder.
Turn the heat off the dyepot and leave the linen and cotton samples to soak overnight. More colour will continue to develop as the dyebath cools.

Brazilwood Dye on Linen and Cotton
Brazilwood Dye on Linen and Cotton

All cellulose fibres, yarns and fabrics must be scoured prior to mordanting or dyeing. Please see my previous article on how to do this.
How to Scour Linen

For these samples, I used several different linen and cotton fabrics as well as wool yarn.

Linen and Cotton Fabric Samples
Linen and Cotton Fabric Samples

Unbleached Cotton
Bleached Linen
Linen/Cotton Blend
Natural Linen (light weight)
Natural Linen (heavy weight)

Paivatar – Plant Dyed Wool Yarns
Look for some of my plant dyed yarns at my PaivatarYarn Shop on Etsy.

Natural Plant Dyed Wool Yarn
Natural Plant Dyed Wool Yarn

Natural Dyes
Anne Georges
Wild Colours

Indigo from Seed to Dye

Indigo: Dye It, Make It: Techniques from plain and dip-dyeing to tie-dyeing and batik, in natural indigo blue

Wild Color, Revised and Updated Edition: The Complete Guide to Making and Using Natural Dyes

Natural Dyes

The Art and Craft of Natural Dyeing: Traditional Recipes for Modern Use

Dyes and Mordants on Ebay

Alum - Potassium Aluminum Sulfate - Mordant - Potash Alum - 4 oz

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Madder Root Powder (Rubia tinctorum) FREE SHIPPING natural colorant 1 oz - 1 lb

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How to Scour and Mordant Cotton and Linen

The secret to successful natural dyeing of cellulose fibres, yarns and fabrics such as cotton and linen is thorough scouring. The scouring process removes natural oils, waxes and pectins from the fibre so that the dyes can penetrate the fibre more readily. Scouring and mordanting cellulose fibres is a more time consuming process than when mordanting wool and protein fibres. But it is well worth taking the extra time to prepare your fabric before you put it into the dyepot.

Here is a sample of natural brown linen fabric that has been dyed with Madder Root. One has been scoured prior to Aluminium Acetate mordant and Madder dye, and one hasn’t.

Scoured and Unscoured Dyed Linen Sample
Scoured and Unscoured Dyed Linen Sample

How to Scour Linen and Cotton
Weigh out the fabric or yarn you wish to scour.
For 100 grams of fabric I use:
10 grams Soda Ash
3 grams Carbolic Soap
Add this to water and mix.
Add the yarn or fabric.
Bring to a boil and let it simmer +2 to 3 hours.

The water will become brown as the waxes and oils are released from the fabric.
Even a bleached white linen will give you water that looks murky.
Let the fabric cool and then remove it from the scouring soak.
Rinse the fabric thoroughly.

Scour Linen and Cotton
Scour Linen and Cotton

As the Soda Ash has a high pH, the fabric needs to be soaked in an acidic vinegar solution to return the pH back to neutral. Plant dyes are sensitive to different pH levels and this can affect the final colour, so changes in pH during the mordanting process must be neutralized before dyeing the fabric.

Mordant for Cotton and Linen
To mordant cellulose fibres I use Aluminium Acetate
To mordant 100 grams of fabric,
Mix 5 grams aluminium acetate into a bowl or plastic bucket of hot tap water.
Stir until dissolved.
Add the scoured and rinsed fabric or yarn.
Let this soak for + 1 hour.

The yarn or fabric can then be removed from the mordant solution and allowed to dry, or it is ready to use as is.

Where to purchase Aluminium Acetate (in UK)
Wild Colours
George Weil

More about Plant Dyed Yarns
Madder Root Dye Recipe
Brazilwood Dye Recipe
Eucalyptus Leaf Dye
Himalayan Rhubarb Dye

Paivatar – Plant Dyed Wool Yarns

Look for some of my plant dyed yarns at my PaivatarYarn Shop on Etsy.

Plant Dyed Wool Yarn
Plant Dyed Wool Yarn

Natural Dye Books

Indigo from Seed to Dye

Indigo: Dye It, Make It: Techniques from plain and dip-dyeing to tie-dyeing and batik, in natural indigo blue

Wild Color, Revised and Updated Edition: The Complete Guide to Making and Using Natural Dyes

Natural Dyes

The Art and Craft of Natural Dyeing: Traditional Recipes for Modern Use

Dyes and Mordants on Ebay

Alum - Potassium Aluminum Sulfate - Mordant - Potash Alum - 4 oz

$5.25
End Date: Friday Sep-13-2019 22:06:54 PDT
Buy It Now for only: $5.25
Buy It Now | Add to watch list

Madder Root Powder (Rubia tinctorum) FREE SHIPPING natural colorant 1 oz - 1 lb

$6.25
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Alum - Potassium Aluminum Sulfate - Mordant - Potash Alum - 2 oz - FREE SHIPPING

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Spin Flora Dot Com

When I was asked by the AGWSD to teach a workshop on spinning flax this coming summer at their Summer School, I started to do some research on spinning with plant fibres. Never did I expect to fall down such a large rabbit hole! I started by ordering a few small sample packs of different flora fibres, flax, hemp, ramie and a few of the new plant-based fibres such as banana and seacell that have recently come onto the market. I fell in love with the variety and the textures that these plants have to offer. Spinning flora took over in my studio. As I used up my plastic crates filled with wool, they quickly filled up again with a delightful assortment of flora fibres.

Spin and Weave Flora
Spin and Weave Flora

I generally like to use acid dyes for dyeing wools and silk, but of course, the acid dyes won’t work on cellulose fibres. So I decided that really – plants should be dyed with plants. I rummaged through my dye stash and found a supply of madder root, indigo, osage, and other natural dyestuffs. And began to experiment.

Indigo Fructose Dye Vat
Indigo Fructose Dye Vat

Each of the fibres have their own unique characteristics. Some are soft and slippery, some feel like the finest of silk, some are a bit rough and coarse. They all need to be spun with a slightly different spinning technique. They can also be blended with each other or with wool. Handspinning with flora fibres are also a lovely alternative for those who are allergic to wool or who prefer not to use animal fibres.

Spin Flora grew and it was time for it to have its own website – a place where you can explore this world of Flora and also purchase a few samples of your own to experiment with.
I hope that you will visit Spin Flora not Fauna