Monday, 13 August 2007

Dyes from Eucalyptus and Buddleia.

Here are the beautiful colours I obtained from dyeing superwashed merino wool with the leaves of a Eucalyptus tree - a Tasmanian Snow Gum (Eucalyptus coccifera) - that my sister Catherine used to have growing in her garden. All the wool was pre-mordanted 10% alum (potassium aluminium sulphate) and 8% cream of tartar (potassium hydrogen tartrate). The sample on the left is treated with only this pre-mordant, the centre sample was obtained with an after-mordant of iron (ferrous sulphate) and the more golden shade on the right with an after mordant of tin (stannous chloride).

I used dyeing instructions from a wonderful Australian book, sadly out of print, "Dyemaking with Eucalypts" by Jean K. Carmen, published 1978 by Rigby Ltd. I am lucky that a 2nd hand copy turned up in the U.K. This book is especially good because it is the result of a decade's research by the author using 240 different Australian Eucalypt species. It's not a big book, and it's not a heavy read. Dyeing with Eucalypt leaves and following Jean Carmen's book is just like having a knowledgeable friend at your side.

My Eucalypt leaves, being from a Tasmanian tree, are not included in this book! However, I did use the dyeing method Jean Carmen recommends. The dried leaves were broken and soaked in water for 24 hours. The water in the pan was yellow-gold from this cold soak, even before I heated the pan and simmered it for 2 hours. I then drained the liquid into a second bowl, discarding the leaves, before dyeing my wool. My sister was staying with me and had the fun of adding the iron after-mordant and observing the colour changing before her eyes.

The tree sadly had to be cut down, it was a very big gum tree to be growing in a small town garden. Maybe it was planted by a flower arranger who had intended to keep it cut back? I understand that flower arrangers do this in order to keep a good supply of the juvenile foliage. Eucalypt leaves on new growth are round, but the mature tree produces pointy leaves.

I've also been dyeing with buddleia flowers from our garden. I used the superwashed merino again, pre-mordanted as above. These two pictures show an intersting effect of simmering buddleia flowers... they lose their colour and turn white! I've not observed this with any other flower.

I like the colours that buddleia gives. The photo here shows samples (from top) with iron after mordant, without any after mordant, and, at bottom, with tin.

I am very interested to have obtained a yellow-green with the tin. If you look at the Eucalypt above, tin gave a stronger yellow. In my post of 23rd July, you see how it turned a yellow-green from nettle to a gold-brown, and pale yellow from Feverfew to bright orange. This is the first time I've seen it turn yellow to green. The chemistry involved in dyeing with plant stuffs is clearly rather complex.


Leigh said...

Interesting results. I didn't realize that there were different types of eucalyptus. I thought they only grew in Australia! Do you have plans for all these dyed samples?

india flint said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Dorothy said...

I have removed a comment that was apparently posted as an advertisement for the author's web site. As any internet savvy person knows, the more links to your site are posted about the internet, the higher you rise in Google ratings.

While I am happy to engage in discussion, and to know what people have to say about what I write, I am not happy for my blog to be used as free advertising space.

india flint said...

actually Dorothy I wasn't advertising at all, merely trying to be helpful as there is a free eucalyptus dye recipe (foolproof!) on the site.
I had nothing to gain from sharing this because the site isn't selling anything, just telling stories about what I do and plugging eco-sustainable practice but you can of course think what you like. I did include my email so you could have made contact to clarify.

Dorothy said...

Hi India, thanks for coming back, I really didn't understand your original comment at all. Now I shall have a look at your eucalyptus dye recipe, thanks for sharing that.

Having seen your web site, and found other work you've done, I'll put in a recommendation here for the interesting article you wrote on your work with Eucalyptus dyes for Turkey Red Journal,
I actually found this more informative about your work with dyes than your web site (!)

Have you done any lightfast tests to demonstrate the durability of Eucalypt dyes used with and without the traditional chemical mordants? I'd be very interested in comparative tests. I might have to run some trials myself now you've raised this issue.

I have tried some other dyes, such as onion and madder with and without alum and C of T mordant, and found the mordant was necessary with these for good dye take up.

Dorothy said...

India's original comment was:

there are over 1200 species and subspecies of eucalyptus. their natural
range embraces Australia and extends from Papua New Guinea down to
Tasmania, but their 'spontaneous invasion' (as weeds) has taken them
throughout the Mediterrean and Northern Africa, across Asia and up the
west coast of the USA, where they were used to rehabilitate areas of
erosion caused by gold-mining. no mordants are required if eucalyptus
dyes are used on protein fibres.see for more info

Dorothy said...

I still don't quite get how India Flint's comment related to my blog post. It doesn't tie in with what I wrote at all.

I wasn't writing about the genus of eucalypts, I was writing about what happened when I used one in particular for dyeing. There are no native eucalypts in the UK and not many are grown, so my access to them is very limited.

Maybe she posted because of my reference to Jean Carmen's book?

She said she "left her e-mail" but where is it? I only see her web site address.

She's now got a book published. I still think this is stealing advertising space. I just left it here for everyone to see. I've worked as a journalist, and I've worked in PR, I have a University degree in English Language and Literature, and to me, the post by India Flint reads like an advert.

tumbleweed said...

it's taken me a while to wander back...and i'm a little surprised my evangelistic zeal in promoting eucalypts has been taken for advertising...the link to my site was provided in case you wanted to try the recipe. so sorry to have bothered you...

betsyb said...

Hi Dorothy,
I have just come across your article and read the history of comments. I think that I can shead some light on how India Flint's comment is related to your blog post. As a resident of Perth, Western Australia I was struck by the first comment - posted by Leigh (on 14/08/2007)and immediately wanted to respond to it to let Leigh know that there are many different types of eucalypts, however India got there first - I am 18 months too late!! I'm sure that India was also responding to the next of Leigh's comments as well ( about them "only growing in Australia").

So although it may not have been apparent how India's comment related to YOUR post - to a fresh-eyed observer it made sense completely in the context of your article AND the first comment.

DISCLOSURE: Three years ago I had the great good fortune to be a student in a week long "Natural Dyeing" workshop run by India Flint here in W.A. for FibresWest. Her passion for the use of eucalypts as an ecologically sustainable dyeing practice and her generosity in sharing her wealth of experience and knowledge was breathtaking. So as you can see I am not an unbiased observer - but I am entirely convinced that India's motives were simply that she wanted to share her knowledge.... and yes if it read as if it had been written by a professional, it was because she is an excellent writer. I would highly recommend her book - a great read. I have just given it to my brother who lives in Northamptonshire, not because he lives in a grove of eucalypt trees but because i thought he would be as fascinated as I was by the concepts and wealth of ideas about dyeing in general.


Dorothy said...

Hello Betsy, thanks very much for your helpful comment. It is useful to know a bit more about India Flint.

A bit more of the context is that I had no idea who India Flint was when this comment appeared, and I had previously had a problem with spam comments appearing on my blog.

More recently India left another comment on a different post of mine, which she deleted - but not before a copy of it got thorough to my mail box. This comment caused me further distress. I almost resolved never to write on natural dyes again, and have taken a long break from doing so, however, other readers do seem to respond well so I might pick up the courage to try again.

I have noticed her comments on other blogs seem polite and reasonable.

I am not buying her book as it is very expensive, and I am told it concentrates on Australian plants and that she virtually ignores the subject of lightfastness.

The next books I'm going to buy on natural dyes will be Jenny Dean's new book (have you seen her super blog?) and Gail Dalby's Fast or Fugitive which specifically addresses the lightfastness of natural dyes.

Dorothy said...

I've just had a spam comment arrive on another post, see:

Typically spam comments pop up very soon after the publication of a new post and don't quite relate to what you've written about. I don't know whether they are triggered by finding a word in the post or random selection of updated blogs.

Shafik said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.