Natural Dye Sample Test no. 1 of 2016


Hello everyone, a while ago in a post I mentioned some dye experiments. This is not my first post on the matter so I’ve decided to just make this into a series. So they will all have the same title but different numbers and year as the series goes on accordingly. And this post will feature   the first round of experiments I’ve done this year composing of fennel, carrot tops, and pomegranate skins.


(From left to right the dyes go pomegranate skins, carrot tops, and fennel)

I didn’t have too many expectations for these dyes. I knew none of the colours would be ones that excite me truly but I still wanted to do the tests as I had gathered the materials and had been hanging onto them for a while. Also I had read about reconstituting dried dye materials by soaking them (which makes more sense than just boiling them now that I think about it) and I wanted to put the theory to the test. And I thought I would try doing the same to my frozen materials, since you are not supposed to boil them. And I usually use my frozen materials for bundle dyes.


Firstly is fennel. And I had tried it before and had gotten that same odd milky yellow that you see above (I have seen wild fennel samples and they were a very bright yellow, but I do not know where to gather wild fennel and I’m not sure it grows in my bio-region) but I had never actually put my fabric in the dye pot as the colour scared me off.


And to be specific I used fennel tops (I ate the bulb part haha). I will write off store-bought fennel but I will keep an eye out for wild fennel because as you can see the results are less than desirable. It only truly dyed the silks that I tested which I expected as it is a protein fibre, but what I did not expect was for the Angora wool that I tested to come out looking totally unaffected. As wools generally absorbs the dye even better than silks. And there was no results on the cellulose fibres I put in whatsoever, and all these samples had soaked in the dyes for a week! And as for the colour of the dye… I would say less than desirable and not worth the hassle. Sorry fennel I love you in a salad but not as a dye.


Secondly there was the carrot tops. I was pleasantly surprised by this colour. But I wouldn’t say I’m in love with the colour it gave. But the results were more satisfying than the fennel.


Both of these materials were frozen and then thawed in water for three days. But I could see colour coming out of the materials after twenty minutes in the jar.  And I will say that the soaking in water technique works. But use it on something more exciting next time. Like the frozen fern peony petals I have in the freezer now (and made sure to separate from the flower centre) and am saving for I don’t know what but I’m sure it will be fabulous.


Thirdly I did the pomegranate skins. This was the most successful test of the three as it gave the brightest colour. But again it is not my favourite colour. I think I will bother with this dye again because I think I can get more out of it with a bit more effort and maybe some different mordants.But I will have to wait until christmas to collect more skins as tis the season then.

And the skins were dried and I was very surprised by how well the soaking worked. This gives me hope for some dried hibiscus and mayday (which I have tried fresh before. But never dried) flowers that I have and would like to test out.


Overall when I look at all the samples I would describe the colours as fleshy. Not a very pretty word to use but if that was what you were after that’s great. I would also compare some of the results to other dye sources.


For example the carrot tops and fennel on silk samples are similar to a mayday dye bath, with that buttery colour, so I would suggest that if you want that colour in the dead of winter go for it.

pic 2.jpg

(Mayday samples are on the left and fennel samples are on the right)

But keep in mind there are a ton of dye sources that give the colour yellow. Also the pomegranate dye reminds me a bit of the lodgepole pine cone dye I tested a year ago. I think they look more similar in real life than they do on camera, especially on the linens and cottons. Although the lodgepole dye is a bit more pink hued. But the pomegranate skins are easier to clean up afterwards since they don’t have sticky sap.

pic 3.jpg

(The pomegranate samples are on the left and the lodgepole pine cone samples are on the right) 

So these dyes do have alternatives and that’s good to know but on the whole these aren’t colours that I use often. And I am looking forward to doing more testing (I may want to learn how to do solar dyeing as I have seen some incredible results from that) with other materials.


That’s all for now, adieu!


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