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Natural Dyes?

Posted: Wed Apr 03, 2013 4:20 pm
by ladydetemps
I recently dyed an old garment using a comercial dye and had a great result. I'd like to dye some more items but find the commercial dyes at £4 a go will soon add up. So can anyone suggest any 'free' natural dyes I could use? My 2nd question is some of the websites I've looked up say to use salt and others vineger is there a reason why?

p.s. I'm asking here as I'm guessing I can learn from history.

Re: Natural Dyes?

Posted: Wed Apr 03, 2013 5:29 pm
by Neil of Ormsheim
The salt or vinegar or allum or tin compound or or or or are probably mordants that help fix the dye to the fibres. Often, with natural dyes, you have to mordant the cloth/fibres before you put in into the dye bath i.e. two baths, one of mordant, one of dye stuff. Changing the mordant can seriously affect the shade, intensity or even colour that is produced. It's great fun experimenting with different mordants and different fibres to see the range of colours produced.

Re: Natural Dyes?

Posted: Wed Apr 03, 2013 6:12 pm
by sally
The vast majority of natural dyyes need a mordant to fix them, otherwise they fade and wash out. There are exceptions, things like walnut husks or woad don't need mordants, but most of the simplest dyes that are good for beginners will be much better with a mordant. I'd suggest starting with alum, its cheap, easy to get, and you arent too likely to poison yourself with it

Probably the first question is what sort of colour do you want? There are dozens of plants that will give yellowy beiges, a few that give strong yellows, a few that give good reds, and just a very few that give blue. If historical accuracy isnt an issue, a good beginners one is onion skin (strong orangey yellow) but even with a mordant it will fade over time.

You also need to consider what you are dyeing, plant fibres such as cotton often need a differnt approach than protein fibres such as wool

Re: Natural Dyes?

Posted: Thu Apr 04, 2013 9:49 am
by ladydetemps
sally wrote:The vast majority of natural dyyes need a mordant to fix them, otherwise they fade and wash out. There are exceptions, things like walnut husks or woad don't need mordants, but most of the simplest dyes that are good for beginners will be much better with a mordant. I'd suggest starting with alum, its cheap, easy to get, and you arent too likely to poison yourself with it

Probably the first question is what sort of colour do you want? There are dozens of plants that will give yellowy beiges, a few that give strong yellows, a few that give good reds, and just a very few that give blue. If historical accuracy isnt an issue, a good beginners one is onion skin (strong orangey yellow) but even with a mordant it will fade over time.

You also need to consider what you are dyeing, plant fibres such as cotton often need a differnt approach than protein fibres such as wool
I was hoping to find a Yellow, Red, blue and black (so could mix to make all the other colours. But I'd be happy with reds, greens and blues. Yellow isn't really my colour.
with the yellow you mention onion skins which type of onion. Would red onion give a differend colour?
Most of my stuff is cotton that I want to dye. I don't have much wool (usually acrylic anyway).

btw. this is what my first dying attempt turned out like
http://www.flickr.com/photos/ladydetemps/8615602645/

Re: Natural Dyes?

Posted: Thu Apr 04, 2013 7:29 pm
by sally
blue is largely going to be woad or indigo, both are used in fermentation vats, so its a moderatley advanced process, though you can use a modern chemical to mimic the effect of a urine fermentation. Unless you grow your own, its not a cheap dye to produce either.

Red, largely thats going to be madder, again, not necessarily a cheap dye these days unless you are going for the palest shades. Cochineal will give stronger cerise and reds, but again, pricey.

Green is best done by overdying yellow with blue (or vice versa), though olive greens can be produced by using copper or iron mordants with yellows.

Sounds to me like you need to get a good dye manual out of the library, then see which of the suggested dyeplants you have access to locally, especially as cost is a factor in your choices.

Re: Natural Dyes?

Posted: Thu Apr 04, 2013 7:38 pm
by Sassyfrass
I think you'll find that plant dyes are not cheaper than synthetic dyes but, in my opinion they are very satisfying to use. You can get very vibrant colours, but it can be tricky to dye large pieces of fabric unless you have a really big dye pot.

Re: Natural Dyes?

Posted: Thu Apr 04, 2013 8:07 pm
by Sophia
Weld is your cheapest natural dye as it grows very well on disturbed/wasteland so once you know what to look for you can find it for nothing in a lot of places, even in town. Just don't randomly park your car on a roundabout or lose your keys in the field when picking it :wink: The actually results vary from a light lemon yellow to a blinding yellow of the high vis type.

You can, as Sally said, get a variety of shades of khaki type green from it by using a Ferrous Sulphate mordant. This group of colours is referred to as Goose Turd Green in C16th and any one who has seen the eponymous turd as well as the yarn/cloth dyed this way will vouch for the accuracy of the name.

If you want to dye large quantities of cloth you are better off sticking to washing machine dying, which regrettably limits your colour range and fibre type as it works best with vegetable fibres. Dying cloth requires a large vat and someway to maintain temperature. You can do smaller amounts of wool on the stove top if your other half doesn't object (the huge aluminium cooking pots from Ethnic shops are excellent for this. Even better do it outside where you can't contaminate your kitchen. I am hoping to try out a galvanised baby bath and a double gas burner this year (weather, time and cash for dye allowing) with a plastic baby bath for mordanting, rinsing, etc.

If you want to see period type dying in action you should come to Kentwell Hall in Suffolk during the Main event in late June/early July. The set up is small and not entirely period accurate. On the whole they do not do large amounts of cloth, though they have managed 2m (1.5m wide) very lightweight cloth for me. I did provide the dye for this as the dye provided on site is primarily used for dying the yarn from the Manor sheep so it can be sold in the shop. Last year one of the Dyers brought a sizeable amount of reduced Indigotin with (the active dye stuff in Woad and Indigo) and the results were amazing, I have a small length on silk which went in the exhaust and it is a beautiful if not quite even sky blue.

Finally for historical stuff remember that when they could afford it our ancestors did not have our modern colour values. Colours particularly bright/deep ones or one produced from a certain dye were a sign of status. You didn't worry so much about if it suited you - think of all those portraits where you might have thought the sitter looks pasty and wouldn't another colour have suited them better.

For Kentwell I have worn a brick orange (real madder) kirtle with a woad blue apron and am currently wearing a tawny kirtle with the same apron, sometimes with a very slightly faded black gown over it (Iron Gallate dyes are light sensitive, will probably be a bit greenish in a couple of years). All this with very white linens (coif, shift, pinner, etc.) None of this is necessarily flattering, but it is exactly what someone of my status (Merchant Class) would have worn while working. Unless you are playing aristocracy or royalty don't worry about the posh stuff as you don't need it for the event.

Re: Natural Dyes?

Posted: Thu Apr 04, 2013 8:31 pm
by ladydetemps
Thanks for the feedback.
@sally any books you'd reccomend as particually good. I think I might need a book for recognizing plants as well. Quite like the thought of going foraging.
Sophia wrote:Weld is your cheapest natural dye as it grows very well on disturbed/wasteland so once you know what to look for you can find it for nothing in a lot of places, even in town. Just don't randomly park your car on a roundabout or lose your keys in the field when picking it :wink: The actually results vary from a light lemon yellow to a blinding yellow of the high vis type.
I know have a mental image of a tudor in a high viz jacket. lol!
You can, as Sally said, get a variety of shades of khaki type green from it by using a Ferrous Sulphate mordant. This group of colours is referred to as Goose Turd Green in C16th and any one who has seen the eponymous turd as well as the yarn/cloth dyed this way will vouch for the accuracy of the name.
:o lol! Goose turd green. I quite like that colour.
If you want to dye large quantities of cloth you are better off sticking to washing machine dying, which regrettably limits your colour range and fibre type as it works best with vegetable fibres. Dying cloth requires a large vat and someway to maintain temperature. You can do smaller amounts of wool on the stove top if your other half doesn't object (the huge aluminium cooking pots from Ethnic shops are excellent for this. Even better do it outside where you can't contaminate your kitchen. I am hoping to try out a galvanised baby bath and a double gas burner this year (weather, time and cash for dye allowing) with a plastic baby bath for mordanting, rinsing, etc.
I'm not going industrial. Just a few cotton shirts & dresses. Or bits of trimming.
If you want to see period type dying in action you should come to Kentwell Hall in Suffolk during the Main event in late June/early July. The set up is small and not entirely period accurate. On the whole they do not do large amounts of cloth, though they have managed 2m (1.5m wide) very lightweight cloth for me. I did provide the dye for this as the dye provided on site is primarily used for dying the yarn from the Manor sheep so it can be sold in the shop. Last year one of the Dyers brought a sizeable amount of reduced Indigotin with (the active dye stuff in Woad and Indigo) and the results were amazing, I have a small length on silk which went in the exhaust and it is a beautiful if not quite even sky blue.
I'll have to see if I can get there. Depends what week it is.
Finally for historical stuff remember that when they could afford it our ancestors did not have our modern colour values. Colours particularly bright/deep ones or one produced from a certain dye were a sign of status. You didn't worry so much about if it suited you - think of all those portraits where you might have thought the sitter looks pasty and wouldn't another colour have suited them better.

For Kentwell I have worn a brick orange (real madder) kirtle with a woad blue apron and am currently wearing a tawny kirtle with the same apron, sometimes with a very slightly faded black gown over it (Iron Gallate dyes are light sensitive, will probably be a bit greenish in a couple of years). All this with very white linens (coif, shift, pinner, etc.) None of this is necessarily flattering, but it is exactly what someone of my status (Merchant Class) would have worn while working. Unless you are playing aristocracy or royalty don't worry about the posh stuff as you don't need it for the event.
Actually this is for a few regency and a few modern peices. I have far too many plain white cotton shirts.

Re: Natural Dyes?

Posted: Thu Apr 04, 2013 10:29 pm
by Sophia
Details about Kentwell here. Best event is the June/July one as that is when the largest number of things are happening. Open to the public on the weekends.

Re: Natural Dyes?

Posted: Fri Apr 12, 2013 11:18 am
by Alice the Huswyf
Costs of dressmaking and dying are relative. No, it is not cheap - compared to mass manufactured to mid range clothing ranges. However for quality, fit and creativity, it is much cheaper than the equivalent product / boutique mark up. Plus as hobbies go, it is less expensive and the results longer-lasting than something like golf!

Onionskin is a 'cheap' dye - but have you seen the amount of onionskin required? Weld and madder can be grown - but that is a cost in time.

I avoid the modern repackaged Dylon - the company was bought fairly recently and the range was reduced (in the face of decline in use) The packets indicate a colour patch on the side which doesn't really reflect the colour in use - see the photo on the side of the packet which shows garments dyed with the pack - end colour are very much stronger.

HOWEVER - look on ebay for remaindered stock of the old, small round dylon tins: hot dye (colur starburst on lid) or cold water dye (solid colour, raised triangle on lid) - fixed with salt or with cold water dye fix sachets which you add in. With commercial dyes, salt is usally a fixative for cottons and plant fibres, vinegar for wools). Huge range of subtler colours, you can hand dye for differing depth and effect and also get interesting effects of mixed fibre fabrics - poly cotton brings up a heathered effects as the cotton fibres take up the dye, but the polyester fibres don't. Plus with a dye vat, you can use the mix until you leach the very last bit of pigment from the water (exhaust shades), whereas using the machine gets even results, but only one use from the dye.
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Re: Natural Dyes?

Posted: Fri Apr 12, 2013 11:23 am
by Sophia
I have heard good reports of these people http://www.jacquardproducts.com/idye.html

Indeed the results I have seen have been very nice (quick nod to Jackie Phillips at http://www.cloakedanddaggered.com/ for showing me the results she obtained).

Re: Natural Dyes?

Posted: Fri Apr 12, 2013 11:28 am
by Alice the Huswyf
I knew there were specialist dyes the art/textiles community favoured , but brain of a sievey thing! Thanks you.

Re: Natural Dyes?

Posted: Fri Apr 12, 2013 12:56 pm
by Colin Middleton
Alice the Huswyf wrote:I avoid the modern repackaged Dylon - the company was bought fairly recently and the range was reduced (in the face of decline in use) The packets indicate a colour patch on the side which doesn't really reflect the colour in use - see the photo on the side of the packet which shows garments dyed with the pack - end colour are very much stronger.
How recscently? My wife's been using dylon for several years and I can't recall seeing anything similar to those tins.

Colin

Re: Natural Dyes?

Posted: Fri Apr 12, 2013 2:27 pm
by Alice the Huswyf
That is becuase you are childy-teen-children-persons and I am very, very old. Before they phased out the tins = 2 - 4 years? (But then, time runs differently on my planet.)

Re: Natural Dyes?

Posted: Sat Apr 13, 2013 4:32 pm
by tanyabentham
for books try browsing fibrecrafts at george wiel (on the net) they have a variety, they also sell natural dyes and mordnats. for a basic book theres a batsford one called natural dyes and home dyeing thats very good for beginnners

its not really a cheap way to do it though, and you need a massive pot if you're going to dye garments or garment sized pieces - I dye threads for embroidery but not much cloth. you can see colours from my last batch here

http://opusanglicanum.wordpress.com/201 ... tependium/

bear in mind that this amount was the best part of a weeks work, and dyeing a couple of kilos cost about £65, plus the cost of wool. so its not cheap timewise either.

as an alternative to dylon I've heard good things about procion, sold by wiels, easy to use and relatively cheap

Re: Natural Dyes?

Posted: Sat Apr 13, 2013 7:39 pm
by frances
Thank you Alice, I wondered why the selection had reduced, the price has shot up and the results are no longer like the colour on the packet.

The last time I used Dylon I dyed some bits of fabric that I urgently needed the next day - I got up every couple of hours to wash, dye, wash and iron the fabric that I thought would be a good royal blue. It came out 1950's cornflower blue, quite ugly chemical-looking. When I got in touch with the company they showed a complete lack of interest in the complaint. I have not used dylon since.

Re: Natural Dyes?

Posted: Sat Apr 13, 2013 11:04 pm
by John Waller
FYI. I was in Fibrecrafts shop today. Now open on Saturdays since merging with a local art shop.

Re: Natural Dyes?

Posted: Sun Apr 14, 2013 10:31 am
by ladydetemps
I used the dylon handwash version for this
http://stitchintimeandspace.blogspot.co ... -robe.html
I was worried it was going to be a lighter colour but it came out dark enough.

Re: Natural Dyes?

Posted: Sun Apr 14, 2013 12:37 pm
by Alice the Huswyf
If you used the new boxed hand dye, you will have got that pleasant shade becuase I recognise the fabric as a polycotton print, so the partial take up has created such pleasing results. I used that one to overdye pale blue linen and the effect was so strong I had to use it for another project. If you use the same shade on an all-natural fabric in a small amount expect a much stronger shade next time. The new range is all about depth and intensity - the old one was encompassed a lot of shades and 'off' tints. Dying cloth is always an adventure.

Re: Natural Dyes?

Posted: Mon Jun 16, 2014 10:34 am
by ladydetemps
Sophia wrote:Details about Kentwell here. Best event is the June/July one as that is when the largest number of things are happening. Open to the public on the weekends.
Oh, I actually got to Kentwell for the day on sunday. Loved it. Although I found it frustrating being a spectator I just wanted to throw on a kirtle and dive in. lol!
Try the finger braiding or take out my spindle and spin.
Its a shame its so far for me to get to by public transport and I can't afford the wool and linen to make the proper clothing or else I'd sign up. *sigh*
btw. I put a few photo's on my flickr if your interested. https://www.flickr.com/photos/ladydetemps/
Oh, and if I met but didn't recognize anyone here there, apologies. But its hard to tell people from their avatars. lol!

I've also been dying wool to spin with food dye and vinegar. Next thing is I'm going to try to find walnut tree for some dying, but first I need to get me a saucepan to use as dyepot.

Re: Natural Dyes?

Posted: Mon Jun 16, 2014 12:47 pm
by Alice the Huswyf
Here are some links to start with natural fixatives / mordants and easily available vegetables and plants. You might find these interesting as a starting point, rather than salt and food dye. From there you can move on to the more expensive period plant dyes and naturally occurring fixatives like alum etc.

Salt is usually used with cottons / linens - vinegar to fix with wool. Otherwise the colour washes out.

Recipe for fixing fabric before vegetable dyeing - http://earthdivasblog.com/2010/07/13/ho ... ural-dyes/

Dyeing with fruit - http://craftingagreenworld.com/2008/07/ ... toxic-dye/

When you want to move forward to more complex natural dyes (see link below) and can't get to a reenactment market to source from traders [brain fartery] someone clever insert name of best known supplier here as I have forgotten [/brainfartery], then this e-company will supply not only natural dyestuffs for you to process, but varying mordants http://www.wildcolours.co.uk/html/natur ... dants.html

The whole kit and caboodle - http://practicalaction.org/docs/technic ... xtiles.pdf but lichens may be protected under conservancy rules!

..... and that pretty much brings you up to where those nice brainiacs Sally and Sophia started.

Re: Natural Dyes?

Posted: Mon Jun 16, 2014 2:09 pm
by ladydetemps
thanks for the information.
Alice the Huswyf wrote: When you want to move forward to more complex natural dyes (see link below) and can't get to a reenactment market to source from traders [brain fartery] someone clever insert name of best known supplier here as I have forgotten [/brainfartery], then this e-company will supply not only natural dyestuffs for you to process, but varying mordants http://www.wildcolours.co.uk/html/natur ... dants.html
I had the choice between kentwell or the colchester oyster fayre*...I chose kentwell. ;)


*probably the closes renactment type fayre I am aware of....if you know of any others in essex or london that would be good to know.

Re: Natural Dyes?

Posted: Mon Jun 16, 2014 2:51 pm
by Alice the Huswyf
Look in the event announcements section - they are often advertised there.

Re: Natural Dyes?

Posted: Mon Jun 16, 2014 3:47 pm
by Colin Middleton
Alice the Huswyf wrote: [brain fartery] someone clever insert name of best known supplier here as I have forgotten [/brainfartery],
Mulberry Dye?

Re: Natural Dyes?

Posted: Mon Jun 16, 2014 7:56 pm
by Alice the Huswyf
The Mulberry Dyer, indeedy yes.

http://www.mulberrydyer.co.uk/

Housepoint to Gryffindor!

Re: Natural Dyes?

Posted: Tue Jun 17, 2014 12:33 pm
by ladydetemps
Alice the Huswyf wrote:The Mulberry Dyer, indeedy yes.

http://www.mulberrydyer.co.uk/

Housepoint to Gryffindor!
Will have to look up that. According to boots you need a perscription for alum?!
I did however find this http://www.boots.com/en/Spatone-Iron-Sa ... hets_4933/
Iron works as a mordant too doesn't it?

Re: Natural Dyes?

Posted: Tue Jun 17, 2014 4:03 pm
by Alice the Huswyf
I'd not substitute chemicals unless you are a chemist!

Some mordants affect different plant dyes very differently - for example you can get pale yellow to a strong orange-brown with onion skin according to the mordant used - have another look at the link to the dying article I sent. So only a couple of basics could get you an interesting range.

Order from a specialist: The Mulberry Dyer supplies Alum 500g for £6 (I didn't check postage details)- look in the mordants section at the very bottom of a long, long page http://www.mulberrydyer.co.uk/index.php ... &Itemid=25 on which I see she also does period dying packs of multiple appropriate plant dyes

Re: Natural Dyes?

Posted: Tue Jun 17, 2014 4:08 pm
by ladydetemps
Alice the Huswyf wrote:I'd not substitute chemicals unless you are a chemist!
s
You've tasted my cooking then? ;)
Order from a specialist: The Mulberry Dyer supplies Alum 500g for £6 (I didn't check postage details)- look in the mordants section at the very bottom of a long, long page http://www.mulberrydyer.co.uk/index.php ... &Itemid=25 on which I see she also does period dying packs of multiple appropriate plant dyes
Didn't see that right down the bottom.

Re: Natural Dyes?

Posted: Thu Aug 27, 2015 11:37 am
by FionaDowson

Re: Natural Dyes?

Posted: Tue Nov 24, 2015 4:42 pm
by FionaDowson
Woad is easy to grow, grows on nutrient poor soil but does self sow

It's also easy to grow your own urine :)

St Johns wort root is said to give red dye, the root being red. What did our ancestors mean by red? DId they mean scarlet or simply elastoplast pink?

Madder is a bit tricky. Being native to Turkey it likes dry, good drainage and suffers in wet weather. The madder at Bede's World is growing up bean poles. Seeds have a low hit rate but are possible

Personally I like telling people I'm growing madder :) We have a Maddermarket Theatre in Norwich with a youth group called mad red