Tuesday, December 7, 2010

plant dye alchemy

alchemy: any magical power or process of transmuting a common substance, usually of little value, into a substance of great value. 

plant dye alchemy: magical power or process of transmuting common orange marigold flower petals (Tagetes sp.), usually of little value, into a gorgeous watermelon-colored dye-bath, a substance of great value.

                                                                                   orange marigold dye-bath

Following a method described by India Flint in Eco Colour, a dye-bath was brewed with fresh marigold (Tagetes sp.) flower petals infused in water (with a dribble of vinegar as mordant) for 2 days at room temperature, and then strained (setting aside the flowers). A piece of white silk was then layered with the set-aside flowers, tightly rolled up & tied with string, placed into the jar of marigold dye-bath, and refrigerated for about 2 weeks. After air-drying completely which took about 4 days, the bundle was unrolled.

VoilĂ !
                                                       alchemy, yes?

               still in the refrigerator!         
This same dye-bath has been used on several other pieces of fabric as well. It is still transferring color so I will continue using it until it either fails or starts smelling funny. Times, amounts, type of fiber, and choice of mordant are all experiential.

I'm collecting red and yellow onion skins next. I'm wondering what graces allium will bestow.


  1. Alchemical experiments on fabric. . .Thanks for the direct and simple explanation of possibilities (with photos)----the magic mixed with the practical! You've inspired me to experiment, too.

  2. Chris, there you go -- practical magic! What amazing colors are held within these common plants patiently waiting to be released...

  3. lovely stuff here...try printing on the cloth with marigold petals...

  4. thank you -- now I'll have to look it up in the book to see if dried petals will do anything -- there's still a lot in the garden -- I hope they do.