Dye Plants for Eco Printing
I garden in Canadian Zone 5A (USDA Zone 4) in the Ottawa Valley. My aim in eco printing is to use the plant materials that grow around me, and to buy dyes only when it is not easy to grow the dye plants, process them or obtain a desired colour. My idea is to use what I have available, collect the minimum, process as simply as possible, use “green” mordants like alum and iron and let nature lead.
One of the plant writers whose work I admire greatly (and who lives in Zone 4 near Ottawa) is Diana Beresford Kroeger, a scientist and researcher passionate about ecology. Her book “Bioplanning the North Temperate Garden” (now reprinted as “A Garden Life”) has been my faithful eco planting companion for many years. Look her up – you will be edified. Her current writings are about our global forests and their healing work. Her bioregional plant references helped me choose native plants for my own garden. Later, I was inspired to use bioregional plants for eco printing because they were local and native.
I have collected many of the plants listed below from my garden or foraged them locally, except where otherwise indicated, and have used them to eco print my textiles as described in my blog pages. Not all are native for I am not so strictly “granola” about the plants in my garden! I grow a few exotic plant pets like carob and eucalyptus for use as dye plants. I note the colours I have obtained and plant parts used. Of course, you might want to try other plant parts for your own eco printing. I continue to depend on the many wonderful dye books and online dye and plant resources mentioned in my blog. However, since most dye books do not deal with dyes for contact printing, another dyer’s advice or recipe might not offer the information we are looking for.
Experiments are the way forward. Dye colours obtained from eco (contact) prints can vary by season, plant part, mordant, dye assistant, textile or fibre type, extraction process, water temperature, acidity or alkalinity conditions and many other interacting factors. Often, colours obtained by contact printing will differ from those obtained by immersion dyeing with the same plant. Greens, for example, arrive more frequently with an eco print process than as a result of immersion dyeing. Thus it is wise to keep good notes, research widely and share results.
PLANTS TO TRY FOR ECO PRINTS
-Using alum acetate as pre-mordant
-Other colours or shades can be obtained by adding a dye assistant such as iron, vinegar, ammonia, baking soda, cream of tartar etc.
-Dyers often differ in the results they obtain. Experiment!
Dyer’s Alkanet (Alkanna tinctoria) Root (blue with alkali, red with acid)
Alder (Alnus sp.) Leaves. (yellow, brown, dark grey)
Red Amaranth (Amaranthus). Whole plant (deep pink-red)
Apple (Malus sp.) Bark (Rosy-tan). Leaves (yellow).
Purple Basil (Ocimum basilicum). Leaves (purple-blue)
Bay Laurel (L.nobilis). Leaves, fresh (green).
Barberry (Bereberis spp.) Twigs (orange)
Bedstraw (Galium spp. Roots (reds)
Bee Balm (Monarda didyma “Cambridge”) Red flowers. Peach-rose
Beech (Fagus americanus) Leaves (Rich browns)
Birch (Betula spp.) Leaves (yellows, greys)
Blackberry (Rubus spp, e.g. fruticosus) Whole plant (olive green and khaki; leaves (purple and dark green in fall).
Black Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta). Blossoms (green).
Bloodroot (Sanguinaria Canadensis) Orange red (roots)
Borage (Borago officinalis). Flowers (blue), roots (purple).
Broom (Cytisus scoparius) Flowering tops, shoots (yellows)
Red Cabbage (Brassica spp.) Leaves (blue and purple; violet-red with vinegar). Kale. Teal greens
Camomile (Chamaemelum nobile) Whole plants( Yellows, greens )
Carrot (Daucus carota). Leafy tops (green). Roots, shredded (orange)
Catalpa (Catalpa speciosa). Pods (dark brown). Also carob pods
Cherry (Prunus spp.) Bark (brown). Leaves: purple, dark green.
Coreopsis (Coreopsis verticillata, c.tinctoria). Flowers (red-orange). Stems (browns and oranges; greener when dried)
Chokecherry ”Schubert” (red). (Prunus virginiana and spp). Leaves (blue-purple-green-black-grey).
Chrysanthemum, matricaria (Daisy) family: Yellow, green. Chartreuse with baking soda
Clover (Trifolium pratense) Pink flowers (yellow)
Coral Bells “Palace Purple” (Heuchera). Leaves (blue-purple).
Cosmos (Cosmos sulphureus) Flowers (bright orange)
Crocus sativus (Purple Crocus) Petals (blues) Stamens (orange)
Red Osier Dogwood (Cornus sericea) Twigs, bark (reds, khaki)
Dyer’s Greenweed (Genista tinctoria) flowering tops, new shoots. (yellows)
Dahlia. Flowers, fresh or dried. (oranges).
Dandelion. (Taraxacum officinale) Yellow green (flowers) Red (root)
Dayliliy (Haemerocallis fulva) Dead or dried flowers (orange-red)
Delphinium (Larkspur) Flowers (blue)
Elderberry (Sambucus spp.) Leaves (green) Berries (dark blue, purple,pink) Unripe berries (red)
Eucalyptus sp. Leaves, stems, seeds. (E. cinerea: yellow, orange, red; E. camaldulensis: browns; E. globulus: greens, yellows) A rainbow.
Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) Whole plant (green)
Fig (Ficus carica). Leaves. (greens, chartreuses).
Perennial Geranium/Cranesbill. (Geranium macrorrhizum and spp.). Leaves (greens, yellows); purple flowers (purple-violet).
Ginkgo biloba. Leaves (Hansa yellows.)
Golden Rod. (Solidago canadensis). Flowers (yellows, golds); stems and leaves (greens). Young spring shoots (brown)
Hazelnut (Corylus spp.) Leaves (greens) Catkins (khaki-brown)
Heather (Calluna vulgaris) (Erica sp.) Whole plant (Yellow)
Red Hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis). Flowers, dried or fresh (reds, pinks, rusts). “Sorrel “/Roselle. (H. sabdariffa) Pink, purple (Caribbean tea, dried blooms)
Horsetail (Equisetum) Greens (stalks)
Impatiens spp. Incl Jewelweed. Flowers (Reds, pinks, peach)
False Indigo (Baptisia australis). Leaves (greens).
Indigo (Indigofera tinctoria) powder. (Blue)
Iris, Flower (blue) Rhizomes (black)
English Ivy (Hedera helix) Leaves (grey-greens).
Lichen: Parmelia Saxatilis: Whole plant (cinnamon-bronze)
Lobelia. Flowers (blue)
Logwood dye powder. Blues and purples.
Lupins (Lupinus) Flowers and leaves (yellow, green)
Japanese Knotweed (Fallopia japonica) Leaves (blue)
Madder (Rubia tinctoria) Roots (red)
Southern Magnolia(Magnolia grandiflora and spp). Dried leaves. (browns, tans).
Mahonia spp. Fruit (blues) Leaves (greens)
Japanese Maple (acer palmatum). Fall leaves, multi coloured. (red, brown, blue, green, yellow). A rainbow.
Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum and A. saccharinum) Leaves (Yellows, browns)
Golden Marguerite/Dyer’s Camomile (Anthemis tinctoria). Flowers (yellows); leaves ( greens).
French/African Marigold (Tagetes patula and spp). Flowers (yellows, oranges, rusts); calices (green).
Marigold (Calendula). Flowers (yellows).
Meadow Rue (Thalictrum) Whole plant. (yellow)
Milkweed (Asclepias spp. ) Whole plant (greens)
Mint (Mentha spp.) Whole plant (greens)
Moosewood (Acer pensylvanica) Leaves (green with Cu and ammonia)
Mountain Ash (Sorbus spp. )/Rowan. Berries (salmon pink) Leaves (gold-tan)
Mulberry(Morus alba) Leaves (greens) and berries (purples)
Mullein (Verbsacum) Whole plant (grey, Fe; bronze, Cu)
Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica) Whole plant (greens)
Oak (Quercus spp.) Leaves (browns, golds). Acorns (browns, tans)
Red Onion skins (green). Yellow Onion skins (yellows) (Allium cepa).
Osage Orange (Maclura pomifera). Dye powder, orange.
Blue Pansy(Viola sp.) Flowers (blues).
Peony (Paeonia spp) Leaves (greens)
Persian Berries /Buckthorn (Rhamnus spp.) Yellow.
Plum (Prunus spp.) Leaves (blue-green-purple) Fruit (blue, red)
Pokeweed (Phytolacca americium). Berries, NB Poisonous.
Pomegranate (Punica granatum) Peel (tannin source)(dye) Fruit (orange)
Portulacca red flowers (red)
Poplar (Populus spp.) Leaves (pinks, greens)
Privet (Ligustrum vulgare) Leaves (green) Berries (blue)
Queen Anne’s Lace/Wild Carrot (Daucus carota/Ammi maijus) Flowers (chartreuse)
Radish (Raphanus raphanistrum) Root (red)
Rooibos (tea), dried leaves. (rusty reds). Grocery
Rose (Rosa spp.) Leaves (greens) Petals (various) Hips (scarlet, pink)
Serviceberry and Saskatoonberry (Amelanchier spp.) Leaves (purple and green) and berries (dark blue, purple, pink).
Safflower (Carthamus tinctorius). Dried petals. (Pinks, reds, yellows). Special processes.
Sage (Salvia officinalis) Leaves (green) (Salvia coccinea) Blossoms (pink, red)
Saint John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) Reds (in alcohol), yellows (whole plant)
Purple Sandcherry (Prunus cistena). Leaves (purple, blue).
Saw-wort (Seratula tinctoria and spp. )
Scabious (Scabiosa columbaria) (Succisa pratensis) Scabious. Whole plant (blue)
Smokebush (Cotinus coggygria). Fall leaves, multicoloured. (green,
orange, red, blue, brown, yellow). A rainbow.
Spruce (Picea spp.) Cones (rust reds)
Sweet Gum (Liquidambur styriacifolia). As for Smokebush. Bark (purple)
Sumac (Rhus typhina). Leaves (yellows, greens, tannin source for mordanting). Berries (pinks, reds, rusts). Yellow green overdyed with yellow onion skins gives orange
Sunflower (Helianthus spp.) Yellows, greens. H. “Hopi”: purple from seeds. NOT on cellulose fibres.
Tansy (Tanacetum vulgaris) Yellow (flowers) Green-greys(leaves)
Black Tea (Camellia sinensis) dried leaves (browns, blacks; greys with iron). Grocery.
Thyme (Thymus vulgaris). Whole plant (greens).
Tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) Whole plant. Tan/alum; green/Cu.
Turmeric (powder) Golden yellow
Vetch (Vicia spp.) Green (flowers) and others.
Wallflower (Cheiranthus cheiri) Flowers (orange-pink)
Black Walnut (Juglans nigra). Nuts (browns).Leaves (green/yellow)
Weld (Reseda luteola) Yellow
Willow (Salix caprea, S.alba and spp.) Leaves (yellow) Bark (brown, grey)
Woad (Isatis tinctoria) Blues
Yarrow (Achillea spp.) Flowers (greens)
Yew (Taxus baccata) Bark, needles