Friday, September 12, 2014

Dying silk scarves

A member of NEWHSA offered an opportunity to experiment with dying silk scarves with dyes made of vaious natural plant materials.

Pastel dyed scarf being admired by participants
as sunset creates it's own pastels in the background 
Begin by choosing plant material to use to achieve the desired color(s).

Plant Material for Dyes


- Alder (Alnus rubra) (Bark)- orange
- Barberry (mahonia sp.) yellow orange (with alum) very strong & permanent. Any part of the plant will work.
- Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) (root when cut open)- will give a good orange to reddish orange color.
- Butternut Tree (Juglans cinerea) – (bark, seed husks) – light yelllow-orange
- Carrot (Daucus carota) – (roots) – orange
- Eucalyptus – (all parts, leaves and bark) beautiful shades of tan, deep rust red, yellow, green, orange and chocolate brown.
- Giant Coreopsis (Coreopsis gigantea) Yields bright permanent orange with alum.
- Lichen (orchella weed) (Roccellaceae) – gold, purple, red
- Lilac (Syringa vulgaris) (twigs) – yellow/orange
- Onion (Allium cepa) (skin) – orange
- Pomegranate (skins)– with alum anywhere from orange to khaki green.
- Sassafras (leaves)
- Turmeric (Curcuma longa) dyed cloth will turn orange or red if it is dipped in lye.


- Acorns (boiled)
- Amur Maple (Acer Ginnala) – black, blue, brown from dried leaves
- Beetroot -Dark Brown with FeSO4
- Birch (bark) – Light brown/ buff – Alum to set
- Broom - (bark) – yellow/brown
- Broom Sedge – golden yellow and brown
– Butternut Tree (Juglans cinerea) - (bark) -dark brown – boil the bark down to concentrated form
- Coffee Grinds
- Colorado Fir - (bark) – tan
- Coneflower (flowers) – brownish green ; leaves and stems – gold
- Dandelion (roots) brown
- Fennel – (flowers, leaves) – yellow/brown
- Goldenrod (shoots ) – deep brown
- Hollyhock (petals)
- Ivy - (twigs) – yellow/brown
- Juniper Berries
- Maple Trees (Red Leaf Buds) – red-brown color when dried. Found on branches before new leaves appear only present during early spring and throughout fall.
- Oak bark will give a tan or oak color.
- Oregano – (Dried stalk) – Deep brown- Black
- Pine Tree Bark – light medium brown. Needs no mordant.
- St John’s Wort (blossom) – brown
- Sumac (leaves) – tan
- Tea Bags – light brown, tan
- Walnut (hulls) – deep brown (wear gloves)
- Walnut (husks) – deep brown – black
- White Birch - (inner bark) – brown
- White Maple (bark) – Light brown/ buff – Alum to set
- Wild plum root will give a reddish or rusty brown.
- Yellow dock (shades of brown)


- Strawberries
- Avocado from skin and seed – a light pink hue.
- Cherries
- Raspberries (red)
- Roses and Lavender, with a little mint and some lemon juice to activate the alkaloids can make both a brilliant pink dye and a very tasty pink lemonade.
- Lichens – A pink, brown, or wine colored dye can be produced from a lichen known as British soldiers.
- Camilla -It’s a nice pink-magenta. With lemon and salt.
- Grand Fir -(bark) pink


- Dogwood (bark) – blue
- Red cabbage
- Woad (first year leaves). Woad gives a pale to mid blue colour depending on the type of fabric and the amount of woad used.
- Mulberries (royal purple)
- Elderberries (lavender/blue-gray)
- Saffron - (petals) blue/green
- Grapes (purple)
- Blueberries
- Cornflower - (petals) blue dye with alum, water
- Cherry (roots)
- Blackberry (fruit) strong purple
- Hyacinth – (flowers) – blue
- Japanese indigo (deep blue)
- Indigo (leaves) – blue
- Red cabbage - blue
- Red Cedar Root (purple)
- Raspberry -(fruit) purple/blue
- Red Maple Tree (purple)(inner bark)
- Nearly Black Iris – (dark bluish purple) alum mordant
- Dogwood - (fruit) greenish-blue
- Oregon Grape -(fruit) blue/purple
- Purple Iris - blue
- Sweetgum (bark) – purple / black
- Queen Anne’s Lace


- Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) (root) – red
- Elderberry – red
- Whole (or the peel of) pomegranates – Between purple-red to pink from fresh pomegranates, and a brown color from very overripe (beginning to rot) pomegranates.
- Red leaves will give a reddish brown color I use salt to set the dye.
- Sumac (fruit) – light red
- Sycamore (bark)- red
- Dandelion (root)
- Beets – deep red
- Bamboo – turkey red
- Crab Apple - (bark) – red/yellow
- Rose (hips)
- Chokecherries
- Madder (root) – red
- Hibiscus Flowers (dried)
- Kool-aid
- Canadian Hemlock – (bark) reddish brown
- Japanese Yew - (heartwood) – brown dye
- Wild ripe Blackberries
- Brazilwood
- St. John’s Wort – (whole plant) soaked in alcohol – red
- Bedstraw (Galium triflorum) (root) – red


- Iris (roots)
- Sumac (leaves) (Black)
– Meadowsweet makes an amazing black dye.
- Blackberry
- Butternut Hulls
- Carob pod (boiled) will give a gray to cotton
- Oak galls - makes a good black dye.
- Sawthorn Oak - (seed cups) – black
- Walnut (hull) – black
- Rusty nails & vinegar – set with Alum


- Pokeweed (berries)
- Hibiscus (flowers, dark red or purple ones) – red-purple.
- Daylilies (old blooms)
- Safflower – (flowers, soaked in alcohol) – red
- Logwood (is a good purple but you have to watch it as it dyes quick when the pot is fresh. Also it exhausts fast. We use alum to mordant and using iron can give you logwood gray.)
- Huckleberry - lavender (can use it for dye and also for ink.)
- Portulaca – (flowers, dried and crushed to a powder) use with a vinegar orsalt mordant, can produce strong magentas, reds, scarlets, oranges and
yellows (depending upon the color of the flower)
- Beluga Black Lentils - soaked in water overnight .. yield a dark purplish / black water. The color is washfast and lightfast and needs NO MORDANT and it lasts – a beautiful milk chocolate brown (when super thick) … to a lighter medium brown or light brown when watered down.
- Dark Hollyhock (petals) – mauve
- Basil – purplish grey


- Artemisia species provide a range of greens from baby’s breath to nettle green.
- Artichokes
- Tea Tree – (flowers) green/black
- Spinach (leaves)
- Sorrel (roots) – dark green
- Foxglove - (flowers) apple green
- Lilac - (flowers) – green
- Camellia - (pink, red petals) – green
- Carrot tops - green
- Snapdragon - (flowers) – green
- Grass (yellow green)
- Pigsweed (entire plant) yellow green
- Red Pine (needles) green
- Nettle
- Broom – (stem) green
- Larkspur - green – alum
- Plantain Roots
- White Ash - (bark) – yellow
- Purple Milkweed - (flowers & leaves) – green
- Lily-of-the-valley (light green) be careful what you do with the spent dye bath. The plant is toxic so try to avoid pouring it down the drain into the water supply.
- Barberry root (wool was dyed a greenish bronze-gold)
- Red onion (skin) (a medium green, lighter than
forest green)
- Yarrow - (flowers) yellow & green shades
- Mulga Acacia - (seed pods) – green
- Peach - (leaves) yellow/green
- Coneflower (flowers) – green
- Peppermint - dark kakhi green color
- Peony (flowers) - pale lime green
- Queen Anne’s Lace – pale green
- Black-Eyed Susans - bright olive/apple green (or yellow)
- Hydrangea (flowers) – alum mordant, added some copper and it came out a beautiful celery green
- Chamomile (leaves) – green


- Jewelweed - orange/peach
- Broom Flower
- Virginia Creeper (all parts); alum mordant; Peach.
- Achiote powder (annatto seed)
- Plum tree (roots) (salmon color on wool with alum)
- Weeping Willow (wood & bark) makes a peachy brown (the tannin acts as a mordant)
- Virgina Creeper - (fruit) – pink
- Balm (blossom) – rose pink
- Jewelweed - orange/peach
- Broom Flower
- Virginia Creeper (all parts); alum mordant; Peach.
- Achiote powder (annatto seed)
- Plum tree (roots) (salmon color on wool with alum)
- Weeping Willow (wood & bark) makes a peachy brown (the tannin
acts as a mordant)
- Virgina Creeper - (fruit) – pink
- Balm (blossom) – rose pink


- Alder leaves
- Alfalfa (seeds) – yellow
- Bay leaves – yellow
- Barberry (bark) – yellow
- Beetroot (yellow) (alum & K2Cr2O7)
- Birch leaves - yellow/tan
- Black-eyed Susan - yellow (or bright olive/apple green)
- Burdock
- Cameleon plant (golden)
- Celery (leaves)
- Crocus – yellow
- Daffodil (flower heads after they have died); alum mordant
- Dahlia Flowers (Red, yellow, orange flowers) make a lovely yellow to orange dye for wool.
- Dandelion (flower)
- Dyer’s Greenwood (shoots) – yellow
- Fustic – yellow
- Golden Rod (flowers)
- Heather – (plant) – yellow
- Hickory leaves (yellow) if plenty of leaves are boiled and salt added.
- Marigold (blossoms) – yellow
- Mimosa – (flowers) yellow
- Mint leaves -yellow
- Mulga Acacia -(flowers) – yellow
- Mullein (leaf and root) pale yellow. *careful, because the little fuzzy hairs can make one itchy!
- Mullein (verbascum thapsus) (flowers) bright yellow or light green.
- Old man’s beard lichen – yellow/brown/orange shades
- Onion (skins) – set with Alum.
- Oregon-grape roots - yellow
- Osage Orange also known as Bois d’arc or hedgeapple (heartwood, inner bark, wood, shavings or sawdust) (pale yellow)
- Oxallis (wood sorrels) (flowers) – the one with the yellow flowers. Use the flower heads, some stem ok. It is nearly fluorescent yellow, and quite colorfast on alum mordanted wool.
If the oxalis flowers are fermented or if a small dash of cloudy ammonia is added to the dye bath (made alkaline) the fluorescent yellow becomes fluorescent orange. Usually I do this as an after-bath, once I have the initial colour. Useful for shifting the dye shade, and some good surprises in store!
- Queen Anne’s Lace
- Paprika -pale yellow – light orange
- Parsley leaves - yellow
- Peach (leaves) – yellow
- Red Clover (whole blossom, leaves and stem) alum mordant – gold
- Saffron (stigmas) – yellow – set with Alum.
- Safflower (flowers, soaked in water) – yellow
- Sassafras (bark)- yellow
- St. John’s Wort - (flowers & leaves) – gold/yellow
- Sumac (bark) – The inner pith of Sumac branches can produce a super bright yellow color.
- Sunflowers – (flowers) – yellow
- Syrian Rue (glows under black light)
- Tansy (tops) – yellow
- Tea ( ecru color)
- Turmeric (spice) –bright yellow
- Weld (bright yellow)
- White mulberry tree (bark) Cream color onto white or off-white wool. Alum mordant.
- Willow (leaves)
- Yarrow – yellow and gold
- Yellow cone flower (whole flower head); chrome mordant; Brass to Greeney-Brass.
- Yellow, Curly, Bitter, or Butter Dock (despite various leaf shapes, all have a bright yellow taproot) gives you a yellow/flesh color.

Cold dye process:

Place a silk scarf on a table, right side down. Spread plant pieces (red cabbage shreds, elderberries) chosen for dye across half of the length of the scarf.  Fold the scarf in half to cover the plant pieces. Roll the scarf up any which way until it is the size of a fist or smaller and secure with string or rubber bands.  Place it in a ziplock bag with  1/3 – 1/2 cup vinegar (white vinegar for a lighter shade or apple cider  vinegar).

Let the scarf sit in the ziplok bag for 2 weeks. After two weeks, the scarf should be unwrapped outside, shaken out and hung them up to dry for another two weeks to let the color set. Then the scarf should be washed fast and gently in Ivory or something very mild and hung to dry. When dry, the scarf should be ironed to set the color.

Muslin, silk, cotton and wool work best for natural dyes. The lighter the fabric in color, the better-white or pastel colors work the best. Before you start the dyeing process, you’ll want to get your fabric ready. First, wash the fabric. Don’t dry it though – it needs to be wet. Then prepare your fixative or “mordant.” This is to help the fabric take up the dye more easily and ensure that the color sets in the fabric. For plant dyes, mix 4 parts cold water to 1 part vinegar in a large pot, add your silk and simmer for an hour. For berry dyes, mix 1/2 cup slat to 8 cups cold water in a large pot, add your silk and simmer for an hour. Rinse in cool water and squeeze out any excess.
To make the dye solution, chop plant material into small pieces to give you more surface area. Use ripe, mature plant material and always use fresh, not dried. Dried plant material will usually give you muted colors and sometimes no color at all.  If the plant is tough, like yellow dock roots, smash the root with a hammer to make it fiberous. This will also give you more exposed surface area. If you know you won’t need it for a while, but the plant is at its peak, like nettle, you can chop it up and freeze it for a few months.
Place the plant material in a large non-reactive pot (like stainless steel or glass). Double the amount of water to plant material. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about an hour until you get a nice dark color. Strain out the plant material and return the liquid to the pot.
Carefully place the fixative-soaked fabric in the dye bath and bring to a slow boil. Simmer for an hour or so, stirring once in a while.
Check your fabric. Remember, it will be lighter when it dries. An hour should produce nice color, but darker hues can be achieved by allowing to sit longer, even overnight. Turn the pot off after an hour and allow fabric to sit in the warm water as long as needed. When you get the color you want, take the fabric out and wash in cold water. Expect the color to run some as the excess dye is washed out.
Hang scarves out to dry. Rinse them out with cold water to remove excess dye solution. Hang out to dry again.

Dying scarves with Dharma dyes:

Add water to Dharma dye color(s) chosen.  Paint or dip scarf in dye.  Add scarf to water and soak dyed scarf in water with Dharma Dye Fixative add according to directions to set dye.

To care for dyed silk scarves:

Test a mild, non-alkaline liquid soap or baby shampoo on a small, inconspicuous section of the scarf to ensure that the substance won’t affect the scarf’s colors. If the soap passed the test, soak the scarf in lukewarm water mixed with a few drops of the soap for no longer than five to seven minutes. You can rub the scarf gently at this time.
Rinse the scarf in cool, clean water.
Next, add distilled white vinegar to the rinse water. This will neutralize alkali traces, dissolve soap residue and ultimately keep the silk shiny.
Once the soap and vinegar is completely rinsed away, squeeze the fabric softly to remove excess water. Do not ring to the silk, as this can damage the fibers.
Lay the scarf flat between two towels to dry.
Iron the silk on a low setting while scarf is still slightly damp to smooth and add shine.

1 comment:

  1. All the contents you mentioned in post is too good and can be very useful. I will keep it in mind, thanks for sharing the information keep updating, looking forward for more posts.Thanks
    Silk Scarves UK