Red Cabbage again

With eco or contact printing as I aim to explore it, I am not first concerned with dye standards related to the needed longevity of wearable textiles. I am making art textiles and as such, my art is subject to normal conservation practice, the key practices being: Keep the art out of direct sunlight; rotate the art on walls etc seasonally if possible; clean the art with a gentle suction vaccuum through a piece of window screening; store in a dark place in an acid-free, dust-excluding container. Dry cleaning can work for some textile art works.

So with that in mind, here is my approach to fastness of colour when eco printing with Red Cabbage. My understanding is that the natural dyes present in textiles coloured with Red Cabbage will NOT withstand regular, normal laundering and will NOT be lightfast if exposed to sunlight a lot. Paula Burch (master dyer at maintains that no mordant on earth will render permanent the colours obtained from Red Cabbage. This caveat may apply also to many other natural dyes used for colouring wearables, particularly if larger amounts of fibres are dyed and if long lasting colour, even colouration and reasonable standards of replication are your goals as a dye artist.

What that all means is that I am not going to be suprised if my eco prints with Red Cabbage or other plants fade. Only time and experiments will tell. Meantime, I am going to do my best to make sure they last by following the Best Practices of experienced dyers, where Best Practices do not prevent experiments. And even, as India Flint proposes, consider re-dyeing or re-printing.

Now for some more experiments with Red Cabbage.

Three jars with red cabbage and one cup (250 ml) of hot tap water in each. The blue colour came out immediately.


Left, blue, water only; centre, violet, water and 25% white vinegar; right, green, water and 25% household ammonia.

A piece of silk organza (pre-mordanted with alum acetate) was added to each jar. These three guys are now sitting on a sunny windowsill for a few days.
The next steps in the experiment will be
1. to check the colours obtained by solar dyeing.
2. to eco bundle the cabbage leaves with some more silk organza and steam them as usual.
Here is what I obtained from some stray cabbage leaves left to compost with silk fragments remaining from the last eco print (blue) session:
The composted bundle
The eco print
Composted Red Cabbage and silk organza – will it last?
More fun next time


About wendyfe

I am a fibre artist working in mixed media textiles with a focus on vintage cloth reworked with stitching, natural dyeing, eco printing and rust printing . My work can be seen at
This entry was posted in dye plants, Eco Prints, Natural Dyeing and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Red Cabbage again

  1. red2white says:

    the pattern in the last picture is exquisite. And yes, I can confirm, the dye from red cabbage is not stable, especially on cotton. But on wool, when after mordanted with alkali and turning green it’s still there, almost unchanged, the piece has been used occasionally but not washed. Happy dyeing, will follow you on your journey.

  2. Kathy Geurts says:

    Hi there

    Love your work and thanks for the wonderful blog. Im a jewellery artisan from Australia and I also doing some dabbling in textiles. I was intrigued re your silk road pieces 5 and 7 using cabbage. I gather you just bundled this into your print but was the tea and safflower dry? Then you applied rust on a second print run?

    Regards Kathy Geurts

  3. arlee says:

    Wendy, how did this one last?

  4. wendyfe says:

    arlee, it is holding up beautifully. It has been stored in the dark.

    The cabbage blue went into my daughter’s silk organza wedding canopy. Funny you should ask about the Red Cabbage- I am experimenting with it tonight on paper, and with purple-stemmed, dark green kale too…great colours from the brassicas, steamed stacks of paper interleaved with above.
    When I modified the paper tonight post-dye (R.C and Golden Rod – the latter was fresh but florist waste), I painted on both vinegar and ammonia – different areas of course. VInegar pushed the pinky lavender-blues R.C. colour to reddy-pinks; the ammonia pushed it to greens. Will take photos and post.

    I am using alum acetate nowadays for mordant.

    Gotta read up my own notes!!!

    Thanks for the timely q.


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