Saturday, 12 September 2015

Natural Dyes - Red Cabbage

There seem to be two opinions on using red cabbage as a natural dye. On the one hand the colours produced can be bright and exciting as you can change them dramatically by changing the Ph level. On the other hand, there seem to be dire warnings that the dye is not colour fast at all. Since it's not used as a traditional dye I'm guessing the warnings are probably correct but in the end, the idea of the lovely colours was just too tempting.

I decided on two methods: simmering and solar jars. I also thought I would use it as a test to see how much difference mordanting makes. I simmered six 12" squares of dupion silk in an alum solution and soaked three other pieces in plain water. Meanwhile I chopped the cabbage and did a whole load of eco-printing - but more of that in a different post.


The chopped cabbage went in a big pot and was simmered for an hour and a bit. By then the cabbage had lost almost all its colour and the dye was a deep purple. I divided the dye into three lots and added vinegar to one and baking powder to another. As predicted, the one with vinegar went pink and the one with baking powder went a greeny-blue. I'd call it teal. Some of the dye went into saucepans and some was ladled into three jam jars. I added mordanted and unmordanted silk in varying amounts to each container. Now the jam jars looked a bit sorry for themselves and the greeny-blue one soon went a dull purple so I chopped up a bit more cabbage, added some more silk, topped them up with warm water and added a teaspoon of bicarbanate of soda to the greeny one. They perked up no end and I sat them on the windowsill, shaking them every time I was in the kitchen.

Not much in them
Topped up

I left the three saucepans simmering away with instructions to my son to turn them off after an hour and I went out. Unfortunately, the teal saucepan burnt dry and the smell of burnt cabbage juice filling the house didn't alert my son who dutifully turned the pans off exactly when I'd told him to. The teal silk was completely burnt and had to be thrown away. There is a reason why all the blogs you read tell you not to use your cooking pans for dying. Beautiful pattern, on the pan but took a good twenty minutes scrubbing to get it off. Beautiful but burnt saucepan

I'll post the results when the jars are ready.

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