Red Cabbage Kinder Chemistry 3

A bit of FYI

The dyes in Red Cabbage are sensitive to shifts in pH. By altering pH, I hoped to obtain colour variation. I used a meter to test pH. So to review last session, but this time throwing in the pH info:

Jar 1. Red Cabbage in 250 ml tap water with a basic pH of about 7 gave blue on white silk organza; dye liquid was deep blue.

Jar 2. Red Cabbage in 250 ml water and 25% acid/white vinegar to lower the pH to about 5 gave lavender-purple on white silk organza; dye liquid was deep violet

Jar 3. Red Cabbage in 250 ml water and 25% alkali/ammonia to raise the pH to about 9 produced no colour change on white silk organza; dye liquid was deep green at first (but turning to brown after three days).

Next steps:

1. to see if any dyes remain in the plant materials after solar soaking

2. to see if a mix of dye liquids from the three jars would dye silk organza

So, remove the Red Cabbage and bundle it for eco printing as usual.

Water jar (left), acid jar (centre), alkali jar (right). The bundles had a soak in the sun in plastic bags for a while first – was busy with my grandson!


After steaming the bundles:

Very little difference in the blues, except for some lavender streaking in the (centre) acid bundle. Zero change for the silk in the ammonia bundle. (More pics below).

When I unbundled them, my grandson said: “OOOOO, Nana! That is so pretty and cool! “

So drain off the dye from each of the jars, dump half of all three dye liquids in one jar, stuff in some white silk organza and, voila, deep teal green. Leave on the sunny windowsill for a day.


Result of solar dyeing in the mixture from three jars for a day:


Then the rest of the green mix dye was simmered (180 degrees) on the stove in an aluminum pot with another piece of silk organza. A less bright dye result but still pretty and cool, as my grandson said…and so heat/temperature makes a difference to the colour result here.

BTW, very little crocking took place in the rinse stage.


Here are the four jar dye silk organza fragments, with the two steamed eco bundles on the right. The mottled blue on the left is from the water jar, right is from the vinegar jar…you can see rather more lavender streaks on the right indicating a greater concentration of acid.

Below are all the Red Cabbage blues-greens-purples of the last few dye sessions.

The palest blue, bottom left, was obtained by a second bundling of the Red Cabbage after the darker blue bundle, bottom right, had been printed. The greens and turquoises on the other fragments indicate the presence of the ammonia.


As for colour longevity: Trace Willans over at Soweon Earth kindly sent me a comforting note saying her Red Cabbage blues dyed with iron have not faded yet and it ihas been over a year. Thank you very much for that, Trace! My own silk twill pieces dyed blue last August are still vibrant. Some of my “Silk Roads” collection (previous posts) were also dyed with Red Cabbage and iron….wondering if tannins affect Red Cabbage…As India says, What If ….???

Next post: Yorkshire Leaves for the Chuppah


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
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5 Responses to Red Cabbage Kinder Chemistry 3

  1. connie rose says:

    Wow, Wendy, what an awesome collection from red cabbage! You go girl!

  2. dyefeltsool says:

    Lovely range of colours! It’s amazing how when someone says “I wonder what will happen if..?”
    Thanks so much for sharing your experiments! That teal green was beautiful. Great idea to combine everything.

    • wendyfe says:

      I figure it’s only cabbage we are messing with, not world peace…per se…but sharing experience with natural dyeing is such a peaceful, pleasant and fruitful way to interact with the world, maybe it has peace repair possibilities


  3. arlee says:

    oooo, there is hope then for the gorgeous violet silk habotai i’ve got from my first bath, lightfast wise! thanks again for sharing the results and your notes

  4. wendyfe says:

    Yes, I have hope, arlee!! Impatience says it is too much of a pain to wait and see if the blue fades…but there is another kind of What If., So What If It Does? ( a radical for the retail market, I admit…but nothing is forever)

    S/he whose dyes run away
    Lives to Dye Another Day

    Would like to see that violet silk, arlee


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