Mad In Pursuit Notebook

plant and fabric bundles ready to steam

Natural Dye Experiment: Bundles & Weeds

Tue, 5.12.2015: When you study science you are told that negative results are as important as positive ones (not that you'll ever get a paper published on your stupid failures). The results of my natural dye experiments so far have been of a quiet nature. The common wisdom among eco-dyers is to use your pallid results as the basis for another experiment.

So yesterday, after some reading, I decided to wrap some pale cloth into bundles with plants. The idea is that steam and pressure will transfer an image of the plant to the cloth. Some plants impart super colors; others refuse to let theirs go. I picked four bunches of random weeds from out back: ferns, raggedy tooth weeds (species unknown), little purple cheese flowers/leaves, and another unknown ground cover that hasn't blossomed yet.

steaming bundlesFor my cloth I chose linen prepared previoiusly with iron/dandelion (from the other day... dingy spots only), with pomegranate (yellowish), and with cranberry (brownish). I wet them in a pomegranate broth I had on hand.


All of them were duds. After steaming for half hour, not a whisper of a leaf transferred to the cloth.

bundles after steaming

However, the iron-mordanted dandelion linen combined strangely with the pomegranate broth to produce a rich gray (see below). Very strange.

result of bundles

gray color produced with dandelion + iron, then pomegranate + steam

They say that natural dye experiments are full of surprises. Yep.