Plant Dye Extraction

Here is my list of important considerations when preparing to prepare plant material for dye extraction:

  • The time of year and maturity of the leaves and plants when we collect them has a real influence in the final result. The same rose bush today might give me different colours to last week’s.
  • Boil the dyestuff in plenty of water
  • Different plant parts will need specific soaking and extraction methods, temperature and time. Also, different plants will release different dyes depending on the approach. In general terms:  Flowers boil in about 20 minutes; Leaves benefit from at least 24 hrs soak before boiling for at ½ hour; Barks, roots and dyewoods also benefit from a soaking in rainwater overnight, or even a few days before boiling for ½ hour.
  • After a first extraction, pour the dye off and boil stuff again, for as long as dye continues to extract. Those will become weaker, but may also yield different hues, as chemicals found on one particular part of plant you are using can release its dyeing potential at different times in the extraction time, and under a range of circumstances, ie. temperature, humidity, water source (for ever so crucial). A great example that illustrates how changes in this processing can be found when working with Saffron flowers.

Eco Prints / Bundles

When working with eco prints, or bundles, there is another set of considerations to bear in mind:

  • In this process, we need to prepare the plant material so that it lies as flat as possible against the fabric and them boiled or steamed directly onto the fabric at the same time.
  • Leaves and bark of different species may ‘discharge’ its dye from the inner or the outer side, front or back.
  • Different plant stuff needs different times, temperatures, or conditions for their print to show.
  • There will also be interactions between the different plant stuff in the bundle that will cause interesting and often unexpected result