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Dyeing with purple plants (Bauhinia, Amaranth and Red Cabbage)

Posted by Kanchalee Ngamdamronk on

Dyeing with purple plants (Bauhinia, Amaranth and Red Cabbage)

There is a Bauhinia tree with beautiful purple flowers growing in the front yard of my house and everyday there are plenty of fallen petals on the ground.  I had been collecting these soft fragile purple petals and freezing them until I had enough to make a dye bath. I didn’t find any information about using this plant as a dye source so it was exciting to see whether or not it would work. Surprisingly, the water turned brown after soaking the flower petals for one night and the dyed results are shown below. I especially like the golden colour it produces when combined with alum mordant.

bauhinia dye

Next is red amaranth which I planted back in November. I collected some leaves to see whether I can make a dye bath out of them. The plant itself and colour of the leaves are beautiful. Although dye liquid extracted from soaking and boiling the leaves was reddish, the colours produced on cloth were soft browns and beiges. The plants are now shooting up flowers so I will start collecting them soon and see if I can also use them as a dye source.

amaranth dye

Red cabbage is another interesting plant to experiment with. The dye liquid produced from soaking and boiling is blue and so the dye results range from dark greyish blue to lilac blue.

red cabbage dye

More posts on my natural dye experiments to come soon!

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  • Hi Lesa, sorry it took so long to get back to you! Still figuring out how commenting works on here.
    For a good stable blue dye the best plant to work with by far is indigo. But if you don’t mind the colors fading a little bit after some time then red cabbage will work also as long as the fabric is treated with a mordant first. This mordanting is a crucial step – you can see in my photos that the dye only really fixed to the rectangular blocks where mordant had been applied to the fabric and the background is a very pale shade of blue. Alum is a good choice of mordant due to its low toxicity – you can dissolve 20% weight of fiber in hot water and simmer your textile for an hour. Then proceed with dyeing.

    Also, a little bit of alkali helps bring the blue tones out. You can use chalk or soda ash for this. Adding vinegar to the dyebath on the other hand will give wine-colored tones.

    Slowstitch on

  • I love the colours you have made. I have been experimenting with making red cabbage dye today to make blue …adding a little baking soda but was not very successful.
    Do you have any tips for making different shades of blue?

    Lesa on

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