experiments in eucalyptus dye
Recently I noticed that there is a Eucalyptus sideroxylon (or Red ironbark) tree growing next to a friend’s office. Turns out that it is a variety known for producing beautiful dyes, so last time I made a visit there, I took along my pruning shears and clipped off a few leafy stems that were practically hanging on the ground.
I brought the stems home and cut them into smaller pieces so that they would fit in my dye pot. The total weight was about 12 ounces. I filled the pot with rainwater, and then let the leaves and stems soak for four days.
When I finally had time to do some dyeing, I put the pot on the stove and let it heat and simmer. Two hours later I turned off the heat and let the pot sit overnight. The liquid had turned orange. The next day I heated up the pot again for two hours, and the liquid became a darker red-orange. After letting it sit overnight again, I was ready to start dyeing some yarn.
After soaking a 10 gram skein of alum mordanted merino yarn in rainwater, I added it to the dye bath, leaving the plant matter in the pot. I turned on the heat, noticing that both the leaves and liquid had turned a reddish shade. An hour later the yarn was an amazing bright orange, and an hour after that it had turned brick red!
I turned off the heat and let it sit for two hours, and removed the skein to dry. Meanwhile, I soaked another 10 gram skein in rainwater and put it into the warm dye bath. I let it sit overnight, and in the morning the skein was a brilliant mustard yellow, so I removed it to dry.
I soaked a third 10 gram skein in rainwater, added it to the dye bath, and kept it on the heat for two hours, producing a bright orange color. After letting it sit for about half an hour, I removed the skein to dry.
A fourth skein was soaked in rainwater and added to the warm dye bath. I let it sit for two hours and it turned yellow, and then I put it on the heat for two hours and it turned a deep orange, so I removed it to dry.
There is still lots of color in the dye bath, so I’ll be doing some further experimentation.
What an amazing spectrum of yellow to red produced by green leaves! I wonder what chemical is in Eucalyptus that causes this color to be produced?
I was doing a little research and came across an interesting blog post about a workshop with India Flint where some Eucalyptus dyes are used. Very inspiring! Makes me want to start doing more dye experiments with cloth and felt. Tomorrow I am taking a felting class, so I’ll be posting about that soon.