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

More of sappan wood

Made this egg few weeks ago, when sappan wood dye was still fresh. Brown chicken egg, etched with vinegar, then sappan wood. Inspired by Natalie Kit and her brown eggs that I saw at Pysanky Toronto.

The pattern is from Odarka Onyshchuk’s album, I already the same pattern in malva and buckthorn and posted earlier. Here’s the photo of both eggs with this pattern together, who knows, I might make more of these still, love that pattern this year.

Goose egg drop-pull spree

I wanted to keep using the dyes I made for the Pysanky Toronto retreat. The dyes were not very cooperative at the event, but when they came back home and relaxed a bit, they were dyeing just fine, so it would be a shame to not use them. Still working on the strokes, and starting to work on the variety of patterns. All these patterns are from the Lithuanian book.

Dyes:

  • Top-left, coreopsis extract then sappan wood
  • Top-right dyer’s broom extract, then mulberry, then sappan wood (red)
  • Bottom: coreopsis extract, then sappan wood, then vinegar etched to white, then dyer’s broom to bright yellow and immediately after mulberry.

Pysanky Toronto retreat

The 3-day pysanky retreat in Toronto is now over, it’s been a wonderful experience, amazing people, new friendships, exquisite art, ingenious craft, and the atmosphere full of inspiration, which, I’m sure, will last for a while. If you have an interest in decorating eggs, whether traditional, or contemporary, you have to come next year! (Possibly in June). Whether you are new at this, or you have been doing it for years, you will learn a lot.

Now, this is the only egg I managed to do, I just enjoyed too much seeing what others are doing, chatting, learning…

I was asked to do a presentation on natural dyes, and that in itself was a wonderful experience for me. I felt welcomed and very much encouraged, there is a lot of interest and desire to use natural dyes on eggs. I also made brought a set of 6 dyes, and even though natural dyes require much more time than chemical ones, they are very unpredictable, and some of them did not want to cooperate, several people tried them. By next time I think I will figure out a more cooperating set of dyes, and that will probably make a difference.

Gold – coreopsis extract, brown – combination of dried sappan wood dye and logwood extract dye. Chicken egg.

Sappan wood, alum vs. iron mordant

For those of you who are wondering, what different mordants can do to the dye, here is sappan wood with alum (red) and the other half of the same dye with iron mordant (purple-grey-black).

Besides changing the colour (or tone) itself, in some cases mordants used of fabric also improve, sometimes dramatically, light- and wash-fastness of the dye. I don’t know what will happen with eggs, I guess, the time will tell.

Here’s the iron mordant I got and used:

Technically speaking, you could just use the edible grade iron sulphate supplement from a drug store, it’s the same formula most of the time.

Another proof that not all that works for fabrics works for eggs also: the iron added to coreopsis dye did nothing, in fact, it just killed the dye, even though iron seems to work well with coreopsis for both plant and animal based fibres.

Last year’s eggs

Here are some eggs that I made last year but didn’t get to post on the blog. As usual, natural dye experiments.

Smaller egg – duck, yellow-marigold, brown – dried elderberry (not particularly reliable, seems like). Bigger egg – goose, yellow– marigold, orange – madder, brown – dried elderberry.

Yellow – weld, olive green – malva, blue – cabbage, pink – old madder+cochineal after vinegar. Smallest egg is chicken, then duck, the goose.17546764_10155099642727660_3361046898600688573_o

Weld (yellow), cabbage (blue, green, teal), duck eggs.17349598_10155028475437660_8850810793684496621_o

Weld (yellow), cabbage (green/olive), and madder/cochineal (orange), duck eggs17239776_10155028478162660_7696951738701663448_o.jpg

Coreopsis and sappan wood

More exercises with what can well become my two favorite dyes, and with the drop-pull method. I’m discovering that there is much more potential for different strokes than I initially thought. My grandma only did simple dot and straight line circles, but the actual variety of patterns and stroke combinations is amazing, especially once you hit the google image search. Of course, my hand is still not very steady, needs more practice, but I’m looking forward to it. If someone knows a good book on these Lemkivski eggs, point me to it please!

Dyes:

Yellow – coreopsis extract, a new/different source, seems darker than the first one, I might consider diluting it more, and I ordered seeds, will attempt to grow some in a planter.

Red – still the same sappan wood. This dye is few weeks old now, has developed clumps and stuff, but still smells fine, doesn’t appear to be spoiled, and still gives the color, albeit not as easily or evenly as before.