Playing with Natural Dyes Part 2

I’ve been trying out different natural dyes using similar materials.  This time I tried alkanet roots and logwood with and without iron.

Here are the alkanet roots before preparation which took two days to get ready to use.


The logwood also had to be prepared ahead of time.


Again, I used mordanted corriedale and merino roving, mulberry silk, wool yarn, silk habotai and silk gauze as I did in my previous post

According to some of the charts I saw on the colors to expect from the alkanet roots, it could be anything from gray to deep purple.  I had also read it was possible for blues or even red.  As you can see from the pot, there was a light purple tinge to the water. The dye liquor was definitely dark purple but then it was diluted with the water.

aklanet only pot


The result was a silver gray.  For all the experiments I leave the pot to cool overnight to get the most color.  This was a lot less than i expected, but its a pretty color.


The next step was to add iron to the pot with another set of materials.

alkanet with iron wet alkanet with iron

The top picture is wet, the bottom is dry.  So, I now have silver and gold colors.

Next was the logwood. From all the pictures I’d seen and roving Cathy had dyed in Arkansas I thought I would get some type of purple.  It looked pale in the pot.

logwood pot

So, I was surprised when it dried and it was more of a taupe color. But surprises are half the fun!  Then I added iron and did another batch.

logwood side by side logwood iron top wo bottom

The darker ones on the bottom are with the iron and its more of a charcoal color.

Again, these are all experiments and results can vary depending on water, temperature, etc.  While I had a little different expectations, I’m not unhappy with the results.  I can always overdye.

What have your experiences with natural dyeing been?



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23 Responses to Playing with Natural Dyes Part 2

  1. says:

    Dyeing with naturaal colours is lots of fun and full of surprises too. Let me just ask you Marilyn, did you add iron to the dye pot or did you soak fibers in iron afterwards (post-mordating)?
    I wonder too how they will behave when you felt these fibers. Will they change colour? I cannot remember which natural dye I was using once – but from pink I got green during felting!?

    • Marilyn aka Pandagirl says:

      Thanks Nada! I added the iron to the pot.

      I haven’t used any of these in Felting yet. I’m sure that will yield surprises as well. Going from pink to green would definitely be a shock.

  2. Lyn says:

    You’re rich Marilyn – silver and gold! Great experiment and you’ve ended up with good colours. I too wonder if they will change when used as felt inclusions.

    • Marilyn aka Pandagirl says:

      Thanks Lyn! Yes, I’m definitely rich with silver and gold.

      When I finish up my experiments, I’ll definitely be using them in felting and report by results. 🙂 After reading Nada’s experience with color change, I could be in for some fun surprises.

  3. koffipot says:

    Lovely colours Marylin and you no dobt had fun to boot. I particularly like the silver grey.

    I love this Alchemy. 🙂

    • Marilyn aka Pandagirl says:

      Thanks Judith! It is fun. So far, the silver is my favorite as well.

  4. zedster66 says:

    You’ve got more patience than me, Marilyn 🙂 I think I’d make a terrible mess with natural dyeing. The only ‘natural dyes’ I have any experience of really (apart from food stains!) are turmeric, tea and coffee. What is ‘dye liquor’? I only know liquor as in alcohol.

    • Marilyn aka Pandagirl says:

      I’m not sure about having more patience Zed. A lot of it is being organized and following steps. As far as dye liquor, for the Alkanet I had to soak the roots in alcohol for two days before adding it to the dye pot. But the term dye liquor can be used for any pre- dye preparation. I also had to soak the Osage sawdust in warm water before straining and adding to the pot. So it doesn’t necessarily mean alcohol content. I hope that makes sense.

    • zedster66 says:

      Yep, thanks, Marilyn 🙂

  5. ruthlane says:

    Those are all lovely neutral colors Marilyn. I haven’t done much natural dyeing and what I have done has not been very successful. But I am not very good at following directions either 😉

    • Marilyn aka Pandagirl says:

      Thanks Ruth! Neutral colors are not usually my thing, but they are growing on me. Or I may decide to overdye some of them in the spirit of creating something new. 🙂

  6. The colors you achieved are beautiful, but I am a big fan of neutrals. When I dyed with logwood I did get purple, but using different logwood (a powdered logwood), and different water in Arkansas. Different pot. Perhaps different mordant consistency, even though we both used alum sulfate. So many variables, but so much fun!
    You should not expect a change in color when you felt with your naturally dyed protein fibers. I have NEVER had a color change on me when using natural dyes.

    • Marilyn aka Pandagirl says:

      Thanks Cathy! Good to know the colors won’t change. Your logwood was gorgeous. It is fun! Thanks for your help.

  7. Carolyn Rowins says:

    I have been growing dye plants and plan to use them this fall. I’ve been growing wild indigo, oregano grape black hollyhock and alkanet. Also I want to try the bark from my backyard arbutus trees.

    • Marilyn aka Pandagirl says:

      Great news Carolyn! Where do you live that you have access to these plants? I had to buy these dyes because they aren’t local to my area. Please share your results with us on the forum.

    • Carolyn Rowins says:

      I live on Vancouver Island. I have experimented with Oregon grape and hawthorn on swatches of silk and cotton. Poke weed berries also make an excellent natural dye!

    • Marilyn aka Pandagirl says:

      It sounds like you have plenty of plants to try. Have fun! I’d love to see the results.

  8. I did some roving myself and I always throw a bit of this and that in, I use wool dyes.
    I did a white and thought I was making a dark red but it turned it more like a pinkish taupe gray, so might be nice for an animal. With a red I got a nicer shade with some variations so need to get out my recipes and try more.


  9. Leonor says:

    I’m not too fond of natural dyes for personal use, simply because I find it harder to get the same results twice (and repetition is important if you plan to sell more than one skein in the future). Having said this, that pale gray is lovely! What will you use it for, Marilyn?

    • Marilyn aka Pandagirl says:

      Since I don’t sell anything, it’s less important for me to be able to get the same results. I just like to experiment. However, it would be important if i needed more to complete a project. I have no immediate plans for any of it. It will go into my stash for the time being.

  10. Interesting results Marilyn. I like the silver. Do you have ay idea what the ph of your water was? I know you can shift colour with adding acid or alkaline.

    • Marilyn aka Pandagirl says:

      Thanks Ann! I’ve tested my water and it’s fairly neutral. The fiber was all mordanted with alum. From what I’ve read, alum has acidic properties.

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