Today I thought I just have to start by showing you a picture of cherry blossom in our garden. It has nothing to do with today’s topic, except that there’s a vague theme of pink, but it’s so pretty I just had to include it, I hope you enjoy it too!
Anyway, onwards and upwards, to the the subject I was actually meant to write about…
You’d be forgiven for thinking that natural dyes only give you pale, gentle and muted colours in autumnal shades. Colours like greeny yellows and mustards, browns, olives, rusts and terracottas. After all if you are a dyer living in Northern Europe and use native plants then these are the typical shades you tend to get. But if you thought these were the only shades you can get, you’d be wrong. By purchasing dye plants from more exotic climates you can greatly expand your colour repertoire.
Brazilwood is a good example. Shredded chips from brazilwood give the most amazing shades of dark burgundy and bright magenta. The colour just looks exotic, doesn’t it – somehow you can just tell the plant didn’t grow in an arctic climate.
The dye is so strong that you can use the same bath several times, each time getting slightly paler tones. The first bath gave me a very dark oxblood shade, and by the time I had used the same bath five times I was getting pastel pinks. And if you dry the wood chips you can store them and use them again later on. One 100g pack of brazilwood, which costs just over £3, will be enough to dye several hundred grams of wool.
It is very sensitive to the pH level of the dye bath, so you can get lots of different shades from it, ranging from orangey reds (with acidic bath) to magenta with a very distinct blue undertone (alkaline baths). The wool I had dyed changed its colour towards magenta when I washed it, so if you don’t want this to happen you’ll have to be very careful about the detergent you use. I thought washing up liquid was supposed to be fairly neutral in pH but obviously mine wasn’t.
This all sounds brilliant, but there is one downside: apparently the dye is not very light fast which is a real shame. I haven’t tested mine so I don’t know how fast the colour will fade, but I will probably use mine for hats and scarves and other things that will be kept in a drawer when not in use.