Saturday, 25 July 2009

Love dyeing pink

As you know we've been working on various jobs in the cottage and one of the things we recently achieved was to rewire and fit a new electric switch that acts as a stopcock and turns the water off in our little utility room. It had to be done because the original stopcock was behind two appliances that wouldn't be easy to pull out in an emergency. It also had to be done before I could have a new worktop fitted that matches my kitchen worktops. These jobs are both done and I now have a "posh" new space for drying my textile bits, painted fabrics, paintings, wet felt and (most recently) spreading out my jars and pots of natural dyeing experiments because I've got my priorities right ;o)

Now, I haven't done any natural dyeing for a very long time but I've been "thinking" about it for ages. Quite recently, Cathy started posting her extensive experiences with natural plant dyes in her "Dye Studio Tuesday" series and it rekindled my interest and gave me a bit of a push to start, so I've been playing ...


The first dye I tried was beetroot because I just happened to have some!

I've got various pieces of pre-embroidered cotton, lace, ribbon, threads and silk cocoons soaking in the beetroot dye. I left them soaking for a couple of days

After rinsing thoroughly, the pieces were a nice faded vintage looking pink except for the silk cocoons which held a much richer darker pink colour. The piece at the bottom is kitchen paper soaked in beetroot. I left it drying over my old brass kitchen tap and it made some great patterns

Carmine Red/Carmoisine

The next batch of samples were dyed with an acid dye - Carmoisine - found in red food colouring. I used a quarter of a bottle of Dr. Oetker's red food colouring in half a saucepan of boiling water. I added my fabrics (mostly natural fibres, cotton, wool, silk, etc.) to the saucepan and simmered for about 15 minutes. Carmoisine is also suitable for dyeing synthetic fibres and fabrics

Health Warning
- There is a health risk associated with Carmoisine (E122) and, if eaten, can have dangerous side effects for people who are asthmatic or allergic to aspirin. I read that it is banned in USA, Sweden, Norway and Austria

I left the fabrics and threads to cool down and then stored in a jar for a couple of days

These are the fabrics rinsed thoroughly

The fabrics came out various shades of a very pretty tone of pink. A piece of dupion silk was the only piece to retain a very deep carmine red. I'm really pleased with these samples


Madder roots

Madder can be used with or without a mordant to produce a range of reds through oranges and pinks. I added just enough water to cover the madder roots and simmered for only a few minutes

The madder looks really rich in the pan and left lovely coloured stains

Here I've got a range of unmordanted natural fabrics and fibres soaking in the madder

I left the jar to ferment for a few days. The dye developed into this pretty pinky orange colour ...

From the same dye pot shades of mauve, pink, pale cinnamon and dark orange were reached

Some of the yarn and the dupion silk gave a rich orange which deepened even more to a dark carrot orange colour when I ironed it. The yarn at the bottom is a synthetic yarn which turned a lovely pinky/mauve colour

Red Onion Skins

Next I tried red onion skins

The dye came quickly. At first, it was a very dark red ...

... quickly followed by a very nice rich dark earthy brown

After a couple more days the dye darkened to an even deeper brown

The fabrics and fibres I had soaking in the red onion dye mostly came out a really nice tone of earthy brown which I like very much

I read somewhere on the internet that red onion skins produce a forest green dye and, interestingly, I did get this colour on a piece of absorbent kitchen roll and a piece of cotton fabric (in the same dye at the same time) but the rest all turned brown

Red Dyes

Other natural dyes that produce REDS are Brazilwood, Cochineal (a red dye that comes from insects found on cactus plants), Safflower, Ladies' Bedstraw, Dyers' Woodruff and St. John's Wort. St. John's Wort can produce some lovely orangey reds (Cathy managed to get a nice cinnamon orange colour from St. John's Wort). I tried it, but my samples were not vibrant

Here I've shown my experiments with red tones, but I've also been experimenting with other natural dyes (green, yellow, orange, brown and purple) and will show these in the next few days on my textile blog

Later today I will be doing a little tutorial on my textile blog - Mixed Media Textile Art

Have a lovely weekend ♥


Ticking stripes said...

Absolutely fascinating - mus go and harvest beetroot and red onions from the allotment and give this a go!

Pom Pom said...

It looks fun to dye fibers. I love color and I can see this endeavor bringing real joy! Maybe I'll dye some white muslin and then make a skirt out of it. It's a start . . .
I heart PINK!

Diane said...

Wow that looks like fun. I have a couple of beetroot growing that look as if they will be too small to eat - now I know what to do with them!!

Judy Scott said...

Hi Carolyn, how wonderful to have a designated space just for you ..... the colours look amazing and now Im expecting to see some wonderful works of art (as ever) have a lovely weekend ~ hugs to you ~ Judy x

A bird in the hand said...

Fabulous!Thanks so much, Carolyn. You've whetted my appetite for dyeing, especially as I can just go into the kitchen and use onion skins and beetroot.

Kayla coo said...

Dying fabrics and threads is such fun.
When I was at school I tie dyed threads.
Michala x


Thank you for taking the time to read my long post about my natural dyeing! More fabrics and threads for the stash!

I've already got a lot in the pipeline and I've been busy here too:


Hope you are all having a good weekend - sending love


Libertybelle said...

This looks great fun- I have been dyeing with rust today and your blog has given me inspiration to try lots of other natural things to dye with- thank you for sharing this.

Doreen G said...

Great results Carolyn and isn'nt it amazing the different colours you get in the same pot from different fabrics.

MargaretR said...

Great post! I have always fancied natural dyeing, but never have done any. I saved onion skins for years :) Then threw them out when having a clearout. Wish I hadn't now and the beetroot seems to be something I could do. Thanks for the inspiration.

silverpebble said...

It's so exciting to see your natural dyeing and the gorgeous subtle results Carolyn. The colours are muted and beautiful x

Ruth Rae said...

your color pallets have me drooling and my fingers itching to play! I used to natural dye but got lazy and hooked on liquid RIT.

missy k said...


Wow! The results and photographs are stunning.... I love the vintage look pink colours.... off to check out your other blog before dinner!!!!


Amy said...

WOW!! Such fun color's to play with. I never knew that about asthma and the one color dye and I have asthma..thanks for the information!

Guzzisue said...

loving these experiments, think i will have to try with some fleece. Thanks for dropping by :-)

Cathy Cullis said...

gosh Carolyn you have been busy.... such a lovely range of shades and colours, the beetroot looks fab. My nephew told me how he went to play at a friends at they did beetroot dyeing, he was too excited to tell me! thanks for sharing all this and especially thanks for the link to mine x

sea-blue-sky & abstracts said...

Love the resulting colours! Don't know if you received my message (re Home Spun) this morning Carolyn - hope so. If not you can contact me by email via my blog. BFN. Lesley

libbyquilter said...

a beautiful array of interesting fabrics, colors and techniques within this great post~!!~
i use procion dyes but love the idea of using natural things to produce color and the shades are so much more natural looking too~!!~


MargaretR said...

Hi Carolyn. I have to reply to your comment through your blog as I can't return it personally just now. You are welcome to use the circles and needn't have asked, but how nice of you to do so! I'm sure you and your friend will enjoy it so much. A great way to use spare papers and very compulsive! The same with fabric.

Cathy said...

I found your experiments with dyeing absolutely fascinating. I have a friend who is a rag rug maker and she nearly always dyes her fabrics. She says the colours are so much more beautiful and subtle and your results bear this out. I was surprised by the beetroot dye though. I expected a much more beetrooty colour.

jude said...

i enjoyed this. thank you

ewa-christine said...

Great to read........interesting, and you are so nice to share with all in the "air", thanks!!

Penny Nickels said...

The beet root looks great! What did you use as mordant?


I haven't used a mordant with any of these experiments

No doubt different results may be achieved if I repeat the experiments with mordanted fabrics

It is something I will play with later

Thanks everyone for your interest in the natural dyeing - I will be posting more results of vibrant yellow dyes over on the other blog tomorrow or Saturday


Lorraine said...

thanks for sharing your dyeing experiences as I want to try this once I have more time in September

maminka girl- Loribeth Robare said...

what a great post and so informative. I love all the step by step photos. It makes me want to go right out and get messy dying some of my fabrics. thanks! Loribeth

Anneli/Bockfilz said...

Very interesting experiments, Carolyn! Makes me want to try some of those natural dye methods, too! Thanks for sharing!

Jacky said...

So much gorgeous colour ...and all natural dyes. Love them and thinking about what I can boil up!!!
Thanks for sharing your experiments and all of this wonderful information.



If anyone is interested you can see more of my ongoing natural dyeing experiments here:

Natural Dyeing

tahrey said...

Though I haven't looked it up to corroborate, I wouldn't be surprised if Red Onion colour was related to that of Red Cabbage - the extract of which is used as an indicator dye. Depending on the acidity/alkalinity of the solution it is dissolved in it shows as different colours from purple through green. Try adding some lemon juice or soap flakes to the extraction water and seeing if that has any effect!