Natural Dyes…with a little help from my friends

It’s great to have friends in various regions in the USA so that my natural dyeing can be supplemented by flora and fauna not available to a big city girl.  So recently I received a bounty from friends in Texas and California, namely plum and maple leaves and “balls” from the sweet gum tree (also known as liquidambar).

I could not find any research predicting color from the sweet gum tree balls, but someone in Australia blogged that their gum tree leaves produce good color.  Different species, different part of the plant.  So I decided to experiment with the gum balls by soaking them in plain water and using the liquid to dye a few small pieces:  yarn, hemp/silk fabric scrap, and cotton crochet piece.  The warm brown tones achieved were similar to those I achieved when black walnut dyeing, perhaps a bit lighter.

Naturally dyed with sweet gum tree balls: hemp/silk, wool yarn, cotton crochet
Naturally dyed with sweet gum tree balls: hemp/silk, wool yarn, cotton crochet
Sweet Gum tree balls (liquidambar)
Sweet Gum tree balls (liquidambar)

Next I grabbed three varieties of leaves sent from Texas:  plum, Japanese Red Maple, and Loropetalum (which I believe to be the Chinese fringe flower).  Please keep in mind that I am not a botanist!

I arranged the leaves on a piece of hemp/silk fabric, shiny on one side and flat on the other side.  The leaves were placed in a random pattern, along with a couple of marigold flower heads.  The fabric–and I wish I had more of this lovely stuff–was rolled around a copper pipe and tied with cotton string.  I was very pleased with the results!  Thanks, Marilyn and Elizabeth!

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Author: luvswool and dyestuff

Natural dyer. Chemist. Chicagoan. Felter. Weaver. Embroiderer.

3 thoughts on “Natural Dyes…with a little help from my friends”

  1. You got some great results Cathy! It’s no surprise the sweet gum seeds were a brown, but I wonder if you added another modifier you’d get different results. I love the Eco print. What kind of hand does the silk/ hemp have? I’ve never seen this combo.

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    1. I have saved the sweet gum exhaust liquid, and I have a second jar of the balls and liquid soaking in the sun. I aim to try both with modifiers and see what happens. I will keep you posted! The silk/hemp eco-printed fabric is shiny on one side and dull on the other with slubs, about the same heft as a medium weight piece of linen. Unfortunately, the natural fabrics company that carried this wonderful fabric is now out of business. I have never seen this fabric anywhere else.
      Thanks for your nice comments, Marilyn!

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