Carrot tops

This is the dye stuff that is easily available, as far as I know it just gets thrown away, so why not try to make a dye, I thought. And I did. Usual approach, boiled carrot tops in water about 20 min, left it to soak overnight, strained, added alum. The lighter color took about 20 min, the darker was left there for about 20 hrs.

This dye spoils very fast, but if you can get it for free and if you like that kind of canary yellow – why not try?

I don’t know yet how it will handle the light, I guess we’ll see.

Books: Natural Dyes by Dominique Cardon

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The long awaited “bible” of natural dyeing has been waiting for me in Regina (I had it shipped here). The book is expensive, but it’s over 700 pages of large format with gorgeous illustrations and more information than I can absorb in quite a while. It has lots of things that I haven’t seen in any of the other books, but its focus is on the natural dyes that have had historic significance, not so much on the backyard sources of color. Having said that, a number of the North American as well as European backyard solutions can also be found in this book, with historic as well as archeological references that might not be available elsewhere and are most interesting. In a way, I think, this is the most fascinating part of the book, and I will likely keep posting some “stories” from this book, starting maybe with a historic witness account of how Ukrainians were harvesting the “Polish” cochineal.

Here is the list of contents, just to give you some sense of what’s there:  Continue reading

Fresh coreopsis orange – recipe.

Finally, there were enough blooms on my potted coreopsis to attempt to make a dye, and so I did. This is classic coreopsis tinctoria, or plains coreopsis that I grew from the seeds. First shade took 30 min. in the dye, background- repeated dyeing including overnight. It turned out much more orange than I expected – the extract never gave me orange like this, only gold, but then, I never cooked the extract, just added boiling water to it. It might be worth experimenting with not cooking the fresh flowers also, just steeping in boiling hot water, and seeing whether the color is different. Unfortunately, I probably won’t get a chance to try it this year, but maybe someone else will :). Now, the recipe: Continue reading

Local (sic.) source of sappan wood

You know, that sappan wood I keep talking about, that gives the red or pink, or orange after yellow color? I’m running out of my supply, and so I looked around some more in case I won’t find anyone to bring me some from India. Since it is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (Chinese name is Su Mu), I googled and then e-mailed the main Chinese herb stores and clinics in Toronto, asking if they had any.

This one http://www.greatchinaherbscentre.com in Downtown Toronto said they have it and sell it for $12 per pound. This is still 3 times more expensive than what I would get in India, but it is also 3 times cheaper than maiwa, and it is right here, next to the AGO. (I’ve been inside that store, but haven’t bought anything there.)

So, if you live close to a major Chinese community hub, try the Chinese medicine store, they might have sappan wood. It also has major medicinal qualities, which, I suspect, could do me good, so I might even try drinking some, that is, after getting a proper prescription, or it might be deadly – I read that it did kill some animals in pharmaceutical research, but I didn’t pay attention how big was the animal, and now potent a doze :).

Sappan wood – brasilwood from India – some history, background, and recipes

Sappan wood (Ceasalpinia sappan) has become my favourite source of red color for now. Native to Asia, it is the “older” cousin of what is now known as Brazil wood. When the Portuguese invaded what is now Brazil in 1500, the redwood trees they saw growing there reminded them of Sappan wood, which they already knew, called it pau-brasil and used for dyeing along with the rest of the Europe. Because of extensive use for dye and for violin bows, or perhaps the opposite, because the dye business was not economically profitable after the invention of the chemical dyes, or maybe due to both these reasons, the Brazil wood (Ceasalpinia echinata, Paubrasilia echinata) is almost extinct now, Wikipedia says that the trade of Brazilwood is likely to be banned in the immediate future. So now we are back to the good old Sappan wood, which is still available and abundant in India and China. It is used medicinally in both Ayurveda (where it’s called Pathimukham) and in Traditional Chinese medicine (where it’s called Su Mu). Continue reading

Books: Dye Plants of Ontario by Nancy J. McGuffin

I was checking out some books in the library, to see whether I am going to buy them or not, and stumbled upon this one, which I won’t get, but it might be of interest to someone else. There is a fairly good collection of books on natural dyes in the library at the Royal Ontario Museum (and here I didn’t even know they had a library!), so this is where I went on a book scouting trip last week.

Here’s the table of contents:They teamed up and tested all the recipes that are provided (on textiles, of course). What is nice about this book is that every recipe comes with a sketch of the plant. Here is bloodroot, one of the traditional East coast North American plants that is supposed to give colors within the red range (hence the name if the plant):

The recipes do not mention lightfastness at all, which for me is a significant downside, but the sketches are nice.