Natural Dyes on Silk – Ladies Bedstraw (Galium verum)

Lady’s Bedstraw is found in waste ground and near the coast. The reddish roots are used for dyeing; family is Madder (Rubiaceae) a well known red dye. The plant I found is growing along the Tarka Trail cycle path (ex rail track) opposite the small town of Bideford, N. Devon. Not easy to pull out the roots, and many were left for next year’s growth. This seemed a particularly large and well established plant. Bedstraw has many herbal uses.

Lady’s Bedstraw Ahimsa silk results: 1st soak strong peach – 2nd soak light peach.

Dye bath procedure

Roots need soaking for several days to soften, before boiling up.

Boiling roots of plant produces a red dye, the longer soaked the deeper red. Photos show the dye was absorbed onto the pan sides, which loses dye power available, so pan must be aluminium. Predicted colour is scarlet, so use stainless steel.

1st silk sample has been pre-mordanted in Alum for a day before putting to soak in hand hot dye bath. Rinse away plant debris and extra dye: result after rinsing and drying is a strong salmon hued peach colour.

1st silk sample Rinsed. Has been already soaked in dye bath one day. 2nd silk sample in cooled dye bath which was reheated with bedstraw to obtain more dyestuff.

Red dye liquid is drained off into glass bowl to soak silk.

1st silk sample: Strong peach result after washing out. Steam iron while still damp to help smooth out creases, or don’t squeeze out water.

2nd silk sample Rinsed. Result when dry is a light peach.

Dry Results of Ahimsa Silk Samples

1st and 2nd soak in Lady’s Bedstraw dye bath.

These samples will be matched with recycled fabric prints, and painted on before becoming part of a new garment.

See more and others’ dye procedures on my Natural Plant Dye Pinterest Board.

To be continued….

Natural Dye on Silk – Hawthorne Berries

Hawthorne dyed sample in centre, appears bright yellow golden in sunlight. (Samples – St. Johns Wort to left, logwood to right)

Hawthorne session 1. Using berries from Tarka Trail foraging trip along River Taw – found by ditch and field – growing through hazlenut, with briars and nettles.

Hawthorne Dye Bath Preparation 1.

  • Soak berries for 2-3 days.
  • Boil and simmer for 2 hours, adding water.
  • Mash berries, remove pulp.
  • Soak silk in dye bath overnight or two days.
  • The longer soaked, the darker and stronger the colour.

Natural golds – hawthorne 2nd gold sample from right

Logwood – Walnut dark – Walnut light – Comfrey – Hawthorne bright yellow-gold – John’s Wort mid gold.

Hawthorne Session 2: Using berries from River Otter banks (South Devon)

Hawthorne Dye Bath Preparation 2.

Hawthorne berries soaked 2 days, boiled, mashed and drained to leave brown liquid. Two silk samples added to dye liquid when cooled to hand hot (to avoid roughening of silks) – soaked in a wide copper pot for a day and overnight. Wash out in gentle hand wash liquid. One sample was cream, and one was a weak dull pale grey woad dyed piece, included to change to a stronger colour. This gave a browny-khaki result.

Both sessions used pond rain water. I may have left the berries soaking longer, or the different Hawthorne trees literally produce a different colour, from being grown by two different rivers. Additionally the copper pot may have had an effect (another dyeing of River Taw berries in copper would prove this).

Left and right samples were stained with blue marks from being placed together in copper pot dye bath, where woad dye was present right sample.

Yellow gold centre sample from 1st session using Tarka Trail berries. Browner samples used River Otter berries.

See more and others’ dye procedures on my Natural Plant Dye Pinterest Board.

These silks will be used in garment making in due course, with links here.

Natural Silk Dyes – Woad Blue (Isatis tinctoria)

Woad plant is blue green leaves with yellow flowers, behind the tomato leaves.

Two samples of successful silk dying with small harvested amount of woad leaves. First dye session: two pale blue results.: Left: 2nd weaker soak, pale blue. Right: 1st soak, pale pastel blue.

Woad Dye Bath Process – 1st Session

Boil woad leaves – liquid is sherry coloured – Images (2, 2a, 2b) Add soda crystals until alkalinity reaches 9 – Images (3, 3a, 3b) – Whisk liquid until froth forms. Takes 10-15 mins. Liquid can also be poured from one pan to another, making bubbles. Images (4, 4a, 4b, 4c) Froth is achieved at (5)

Heat dye bath to 50 deg again. Set aside 20 mins. Add desert spoon sodium dithionite to remove oxygen. Add enough until dye bath turns limey green. Place silk in liquid carefully without creating air bubbles. Submerge. Leave for 20 mins. Image (6) (it starts to work soon if some fabric is left out in the air (see 2nd Session below).

Remove fabric and rest. Watch it turn blue in air. (mine went turquoise on ahimsa cream silk using pond water) – Images (7, 8) Rinse out when colour as dark as will go, hang out to dry. (9)

Woad Dye bath process – 2nd Session

Woad colouring occurs quickly after exposure to air, following soak in woad leaf dye bath, which has had oxygen removed by sodium dithionite.

Woad Dye Bath Preparation

Woad leaves are cut up and soaked before boiling and simmering for an hour. Remove leaves, then dye bath needs soda crystals, before whisking for 10 mins until froth forms. Woad dye bath is ready when there is a pale blue or (in this case) pale green froth. Reheat dye bath to 50 deg. then add spoon of sodium dithionite to remove oxygen. The water goes limey green.

Turquoise appears when all silk is added to air after 10 mins soak

The dye was uneven, so I re-heated the dye bath again, added the same chemical again, and replaced the fabric, but the magic had gone, the blue disappeared! The result was a pale grey blue, which looked dark in the rinse sink, but dried quite pale.

See more and others’ dye procedures on my Natural Plant Dye Pinterest Board.

To be continued…..

Natural Dyes on Silk – Comfrey Leaves

Comfrey dye bath makes an ecru cream-beige, which becomes duller and darker after dipping in iron modifier, after dyeing.

This sample experimented with shibori stitching prior to dyeing which resulted in several vey pale wavy lines of resist made by where the stitching gathered the cloth to prevent dye entering.

Result after dyeing shows Shibori stitch-resist as pale wavy lines. (Stitches are removed after full dye process.) The idea to make ‘waves’ by stitching in ‘curves’ worked, but contrasts poorly on pale colours. Large pegged sample shows dye-bath original tone at bottom right, and darker result top left, after adding iron modified. (black marks are the iron water splashed as I poured in iron solution, so take care with fabric proximity)

Preparing dye-bath with comfrey leaves

Cut up comfrey leaves and soak overnight. Also soak silk in alum mordant overnight or for some hours beforehand. Silk often dyes well without mordant when using some plants. Lighter colour at left, darker tone after longer soaking. Best to leave soaking over night to ensure good dye absorption. New pieces can be dyed in dyebath afterwards, and will be paler, but always a good starter colour for painting, or re-dyeing over.

Boil up and simmer for an hour. When just hand hot, drain comfrey out and put dye liquid in a bowl to soak the silk. (I never boil this ahimsa silk as it becomes matted in high temperatures) Agitate to distribute dye equally for first 15 mins, then leave to soak all day, redistributing in dye occasionally to ensure even dyeing.

Dyed and washed out, the ahimsa silk has an ecru beige colouring where first dyed (top left) – with additional dulled, more grey colour where half of cloth was soaked into iron modified dye bath. Out of the sunlight, the iron modified sample is quite dull and darker, to be used as one would a grey.

Sample (gallery top right) compares comfrey colour dye result with Ladies’ Bedstraw, peach. Samples (gallery bottom right) show iron modified comfrey sample in centre; between (left) Hawthorne dyed silk (left) and natural, ecru result of non-modified comfrey dyed silk in second dye bath. (right).

Note: A second dye-bath was made by reboiling liquid and leaves leaving overnight to stand. Heated next day, added fresh un-mordanted silk. Left to soak for a day and overnight 24hrs. This produced a pale but warm ecru silk.

Below: Comfrey dyed silk in centre – dull tone is result of iron modifier. Silks look duller indoors whereas they come to life in sunlight. The range of colours obtainable is fascinating.

Conclusion: Comfrey gives a very good neutral tone suitable for use with any silk painting over. Longer steep in iron (ferrous sulphate) would make it greyer, as needed. Experiment with quantities of iron added. I use either water from a rusty-nails-jar as well as purchased powder.

Images for other dye procedures with plants can be found on my Pinterest Board – Natural Plant and Earth Dyes

This piece will be silk painted over in a design, to become part of a garment in due course… updates will be posted here with link to the garment in making.