Plant dyes

I have become more and more interested in trying out plant dyes, particularly as I have so many possibilities growing in the garden.  There were a couple of old red cabbages that had bolted, so having researched the web and found references to making bundles (thanks especially to Wendy Feldberg), this is how I decided to proceed.  All bundles were first soaked in a 20-25 % vinegar solution, then steamed for a couple of hours. turning the bundle over half way through.   I unwrapped them the following day.  I know some people leave them for much longer – I should experiment, but am impatient by nature!

Bundle one: Red cabbage leaves, including green ones up the stem,  2 calendula flowers, loose black tea leaves around rusted tongs.

4 pieces of fabric, from inner to outer: medium weight silk:


thin old sheeting: (the red marks bottom right are from a previous bit of printing)


silk organza:


silk, with some matted pieces of wire wool (already rusted) between these two last layers:


I used some knobbly wool and cotton string to bind the bundles, which you can really see in this last piece.  I neutralised the rust with baking soda solution,  but there is quite a patina on this last piece, so I am not sure what will happen.   I think the almost black colours come from the combination of rust and tea.

Bundle two : cabbage leaves, spent daffodil flowers,  pinch of black tea rolled and bound around a copper pipe.

Inner layer, silk.  The effect is much more subtle, but the colours are beautiful:


Outer layer was a thick curtain cotton that didn’t work very well.

Bundle three: red cabbage, spent daffodils, pinch of black tea, pomegranate skins, around copper pipe:

Inner layer silk:


I did think the pomegranate skins might need to be soaked, but they have left their mark, as well as the subtle blue from the cabbage.

Outer layer thin cotton sheeting:



Bundle four : I decided to over-dye some previously rusted fabrics, eucalyptus leaves on stem, pomegranate skins around copper pipe:

Inner layer small piece of cotton with faint rust marks:


silk organza:


Outer layer, muslin.  This is a part of it only:


Wools used for tying bundles: top round the iron tongs, bottom for the copper bundles.







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