The search for hidden colours, forms and textures is for me the lure of eco dyeing and eco printing, and a form of art. Eco dyeing and eco printing are essentially direct contact printing methods, drawing out pigments from plants to make interesting and often surprising marks on cellulose (cotton, linen) and protein (silk, wool) fibres, and not necessarily to dye yardage or yarns evenly. While traditional dye practices provide indispensable information and guidance for eco printing, not every colour available in a plant reveals itself in a traditional immersion dye pot. Eco printing processes aim to use traditional dye plants in both old and new ways and to try plants not well known as dye sources. Art, like science, reveals the invisible!
This page provides an “in-progress” alphabetical list of plants that I use successfully to eco print textiles and paper as described in my blog posts. The plants are garden-grown or foraged locally (in the Ottawa, Ontario area), with an emphasis on native plants for all North America, especially the north-east and that can also be grown in other parts of the world. I have given the common names in English and French, plus the scientific (Latin) names, noting briefly colours most often obtained in eco prints with alum mordant.
The page is organized by common plant name in English and features my photos of the plants. Currently, the list starts with ‘Alder’ and ends with ‘Walnut’, so it is a long scroll for you, dear Reader…
The textiles and papers pictured here were mostly pre-mordanted with alum acetate or potassium aluminum suphate, and sometimes co-mordanted or post-mordanted with iron (liquor or bits). The fibres printed were silk, wool, cotton and linen, and cotton rag watercolour paper, as noted.
Eco printing results vary according to many conditions – plant season, plant part used, processing time, water quality, pH level, mordant, processing method, fibre type (protein, cellulose or synthetic), etc.
Future pages (of which this one is parent) will be devoted in-depth to related topics: eco print processes, eco dye colours, mordants and gardens for eco dyes. In my definition (so far!) ‘eco dyes’ refer to the colours the plant can be induced to surrender, and ‘eco prints’ to the forms these dyes take on the substrate.
A FEW DYE GARDEN VIEWS
My new and much smaller garden, my “kale yard”, started in the summer of 2014 after our downsizing-move in 2013. I am developing a garden of native plants with some favourite non-native plant introductions thrown in.
Above is one view of the front garden, with ‘Lacinato‘ kale (‘Dinosaur‘ kale, black kale), fronted by native and pollinator plants: great blue lobelia (Lobelia syphilitica), beside Sedum spectabilis ‘Autumn Joy’ and assorted hostas, with native species Monarda didyma and a yellow goldenrod in the background. In the back yard, shown in part below, I am developing a woodland feel with principally native shrubs and perennials: e.g.: big bluestem grass, bloodroot, cedar, clematis, goat’s beard, iris, rhubarb, serviceberry, Solomon’s seal, spiderwort, smokebush and sumac. With iron bedstead and no grass.
PLANTS FOR ECO PRINTS AND ECO DYES
A photo of the plant and of sample eco prints accompany each entry on the list.
ALDER (Alnus incana)
French: Aulne; bois a rames.
APPLE (Malus domestica)
DYE COLOURS: Teal blue-green from pink blossoms; yellow-green from leaves.
Aronia/CHOKEBERRY (Aronia melanocarpa)
French: Aronie noire, gueules noires.
DYE COLOURS: Blue-purple from berries. Plant image coming when the snow disappears!
FALSE (WILD) INDIGO, RATTLEBUSH (Baptisia australis)
Colours: DYE COLOURS: Fluorescent yellow eco print from leaves on silk.
BASIL/Purple basil. (Ocimum basilicum var. purpurescens)
DYE COLOURS: Purple-blue prints on cellulose and protein fibres
Native. Paper birch, white birch
French: Bouleau blanc
DYE COLOURS: Leaves, inner and outer bark, catkins traditionally yield dye-pot colour; TBD
BLACKBERRY. (Rubus fruticosus).
French: Ronce (Image, Wikipedia)
DYE COLOURS:Berries give blue-purple shades, known to be fugitive; leaves and stems give dark greens for eco prints; dark greys are reported for a traditional immersion dye pot.
BLACK-EYED SUSAN, BROWN-EYED SUSAN. (Rudbeckia hirta)
French: Marguerite jaune; obéliscaire
ECO PRINT: Black-eyed susan:
BLOODROOT (Sanguinaria canadensis)
French: Sang dragon; sanguinaire du Canada
Dye plant used by First Nations
DYE COLOURS: Intense orange-red from the juicy roots on protein or cellulose fibres.
PLANT: Red roots
BORAGE (Borago officinalis)
French: Bourrache officinale
DYE COLOURS: Flowers give blue dyes, especially when frozen.
ECO PRINT: Borage:
POT MARIGOLD , MARY BUDS, MARY’S GOLD (Calendula officinalis).
DYE COLOURS: Yellow-orange dyes from flowers.
ECO PRINT: Pot marigold
CARROT (Daucus carota)
DYE COLOURS: Eco prints greeny yellow.
ECO PRINT: Carrot (with red cabbage) Yellow green from tops on paper, left. With red cabbage (blues and purples), right. Reported to be fugitive colours. Overlay the two for green.
DYE COLOURS: Catalpa pods are tannin-rich and give substantive browns
CATMINT (Nepeta cataria)
French: Herbe à chats
DYE COLOURS: Blue flowers give teal blue-green.
ECO PRINT: Whole catmint plant, print on paper: like many blue blossoms, it will give a teal colour with alum:
CHOKECHERRY (Prunus virginiana).
‘Shubert’ and ‘Canada Red’ are varieties with red leaves.
French: Cerisier a grappes.
DYE COLOURS: Deep greens and near-blacks; also yellowish-brown from leaves; purple-blue from the black berries
PLANT (Red leaves, black berries):
ECO PRINT: Leaves print deep greens, greys and near-blacks, depending on season and substrate; yellows, too.
COREOPSIS ( C. lanceolata, C. tinctoria, C.verticillata)
DYE COLOURS: Reds, oranges and deep yellow prints from blooms; C. verticillata: whole plant gives vivid scarlet red
C. verticillata ‘Zagreb’ – threadleaf coreopsis: you can see why!
ECO PRINT: C. verticillata, print on linen with blue-green sumac: A mighty red!
ECO PRINT: C. verticillata with sumac, red apple slices and purple sandcherry twigs and leaves on silk:
CREEPING BELLFLOWER (Campanula rapunculoides)
French: Campanule raiponcette
DYE COLOURS: A lovely lavender blue print.
ECO PRINT: Creeping bellflower:
DOGWOOD spp. (Cornus alternifolia, C. canadensis, C. sericea, C. stolonofera and others)
Native. French: Cornouiller spp.
DYE COLOURS: Yellows and greens from leaves; reds and browns from twig bark.
PLANT: Oval, pointed and ribbed leaves on Cornus alternifolia (Pagoda dogwood). Red twigs on Cornus sericea.
DANDELION (Taraxacum officinale)
French: Dent-de-lion (“Lion’s Tooth”), Pis en lit (“Wet The Bed”)
DYER’S BROOM (Genista tinctoria).
Green immigrant. It is a traditional dye plant for yellow, a Euro intro.
Mine died last year…RIP.
Try again this year!
ELDER (Sambucus nigra, S. canadensis)
French: Sureau blanc; sureau du Canada
Black berries give purple-blues reported as ‘fugitive’; leaves give yellow-green prints.
Exotic Florist Pet
I save branches that come in bouquets that Shlomo brings for Shabbat dinner.
Image shows round-leaved E. globulus “Baby Blue” and a seeded eucalyptus, name unknown to me.
DYE COLOURS: Red to orange to yellow and brown with chartreuse thrown in
FERN, OSTRICH (Mateuccia struthiopteris)
French: Fougère; ptérétide noduleuse.
DYE COLOURS: Greens, green-yellows
I am guessing this is ostrich fern. It came with the new garden!
FIG (Ficus carica)
Exotic Potted Pet (Green Immigrant)
DYE COLOURS: Yellow-green eco prints sometimes reported as fugitive
(Aside: Interesting that the first (human) creative handwork reported in the Bible, post-Paradise, was a textile art: Adam and Eve sewed fig leaves to make clothing. The colours probably stained skin, too…)
GERANIUM/Cranesbill (Geranium maculatum)
G. macrorrhizum, G. pratense, etc are perennial geranium hybrids and cultivars. (The red ones in pots are pelargoniums.)
DYE COLOURS: Green and yellow-green eco prints from leaves and pinks and purples from pink blooms.
ECO PRINT: Geranium winter leaf print on paper: the yellow-green print (upper left) shifted to dark greys with an iron dip, post printing . (I dug the near-evergreen leaves from under the January snow).
GOLDEN MARGUERITE; Dyer’s Marguerite (Anthemis tinctoria)
DYE COLOURS: Golden yellow from flowers; chartreuse greens from leaves etc
Native. (There are many, kinds of goldenrod, and I am collecting especially those that attract pollinators)
French: Verge d’or.
GRAPE (Vitis riparia)
Native. Riverbank grape.
French: Raisin sauvage.
DYE COLOURS: Green-yellow from leaves; purple-blue from fruits.
Polychromatic dye (i.e., more than one colour, depending on the extraction process)
Hypericum plant in alcohol to give red:
Native species: Oakleaf hydrangea
DYE COLOURS: Yellows from leaves; blooms, yellow from white “Annabelle”
I. florentina; I. germanica; I. hybrida; I. siberica; I. versicolor.
Well adapted pioneer plants, with some irises thought to be native. (The Esteemed Lorraine Johnson says I. tenax is native) Quebec’s provincial emblem, the Fleur de Lis, is the Iris versicolor, native or not. Voilà, mes amis!
DYE COLOURS: A range of yellows, blues and greens; blue iris petal juice was traditionally used in the Renaissance painter’s palette for greens (See my main blog post for details): tall bearded iris ( a heritage variety):
ECO PRINT: Iris petals on paper; green cotton thread dyed with iris petal juice
ECO PRINT: Iris blooms on silk (later embroidered with green thread dyed with iris):
JAPANESE INDIGO (Persicaria tinctoria). (PS The BAD GUY is Japanese knotweed- Fallopia japonica – and an invasive species here in Canada)
DYE COLOURS: A blue-green vat dye; not your Usual Eco Dye Suspect.
(See my main blog posts for How To info on dyeing with Japanse indigo.)
VAT DYE: Japanese indigo dye on silk velvet: with Japanese maple, cotinus leaves, aronia berries and tansy buttons; the lucious turquoise is the dye colour.
JAPANESE MAPLE (Acer palmatum).
DYE COLOURS: Many colours of print are possible from this plant, depending on the season, the substrate, the mordant, co-prints and the colour of the leaves: e.g.: blues, greens, yellows, purples and even pinks. This Japanese maple in The Kaleyard (my front garden) is ‘Bloodgood’
ECO PRINT: Fall Japanese maple leaves: blues, purples and greens on paper with sweet gum and smokebush:
LILAC (Syringa spp.)
Not native but a beloved and well adapated Euro pioneer introduction.
DYE COLOURS: Pink and blue lilac flowers often print teal blue-greens; lilac leaves print yellows and greens.
(Aside: ‘Prestonia’ lilacs now abound in Ottawa gardens; they are a hardy strain developed by Isabella Preston at the Central Experimental Farm research station in Ottawa. Isabella did not get the credit from her male colleagues for a long while…)
MAPLE (Acer saccharum- sugar maple; A. saccharinum- silver maple)
DYE COLOURS: Prints yellowish-green alone but deep charcoal with iron on paper, cotton and silk.
Aside: The Canadian sugar maple is on our flag.
OAK (Quercus spp. )
DYE COLOURS: Rich yellow-tan brown
PANSY (Viola spp.)
Johnny Jump Up (pictured) is violette pensée in French
DYE COLOURS: Blue eco prints, especially from frozen petals
ECO PRINT: Pansy. Pink and purple (with yellow from tagetes) on vintage linen; prints darker and exudes more juice after freezing the petals; ditto for most fleshy blue petals.
PURPLE (RED) CABBAGE including KALE (Brassica spp.)
DYE COLOURS: Colours pH dependent; widely reported as fugitive. Towards magentas and purples in a more acid environment: lower than pH 7; towards blues and greens in a more alkaline environment: higher than pH7. Measured by pH strips or pH meter.
ECO PRINT: Purple cabbage (blues) with C. verticillata (reds, oranges) on paper. Fade alert: the colours of the brassica family are not permanent and cannot be made so. But the have lasted a few years on the papers shown below:
PURPLE SANDCHERRY (Prunus cistena)
Native spp. Also P. nigra, P. pumila, P. serotina, P.virginiana.
French: Prunier, sauvage
DYE COLOURS: Ecoprints good dark greens and green-blues, especially on protein fibres.
RED AMARANTH (Amaranthus spp.).
Native. (The famous Hopi red dye comes from one variety – not the one I can grow)
SMOKEBUSH (Cotinus obovatus)
Cotinus coggygria (purple smokebush) is the Euro cotinus with deep red leaves.
DYE COLOURS: Amazing colours from cotinus: orange, blue, green, yellow, brown, purple…depending. But some of them fade, especially the blues on linen and cotton (cellulose fibres). Older prints tend to brown out.
ECO PRINT: Purple smokebush autumn-coloured leaves on gold-foiled silk:
ROSE (Rosa spp. )
Native species: R. blanda, R. carolina, R. rugosa, R. virginiana, etc
DYE COLOURS: Leaves print green; olive or blue-black with iron . ‘
SAFFLOWER. (Carthamus tinctorius)
DYE COLOURS: Dried petals ecoprint yellow on silk; other dye colours obtained using a different immersion and pH manipulation processes. See below.
Dried petals are a saffron substitute (“American saffron”) obtained in the spice section of a Mid East grocery store.) Seeds are widely used for bird seed and are said to deter squirrels.
Safflower is a special case. The pink, yellow and orange dyes come from the same petals as a result of an interesting and challenging process (See my main blog for more info on the process)
SASKATOONBERRY (Amelanchier alnifolia)
French: Bois de flèche; Saskatons, poire
DYE COLOURS: Berries print blue. Used by some First Nations to dye baskets and arrows.
ECO PRINT: Saskatoonberries in the freezer for stronger purple-blue prints
SERVICEBERRY(Amelanchier arborea; A. laevis; A. canadensis )
French: Amelanchier du Canada
DYE COLOURS: Fall leaves (multicoloured) print shades of brown, tan and reddish brown with yellow on paper. I could not bear to eco print the tasty berries…just shared them with the birds right off the bush.
STRAWBERRY (Fragaria virginiana)
Native species. Wild strawberry.
French: Fraisier des champs. Bear food!
DYE COLOURS: Pink prints, fugitive; leaves, a good yellow-green print on paper
ECO PRINT: Strawberry
STAGHORN SUMAC (Rhus typhina)
French: Vinaigrier; sumac vinaigrier.
DYE COLOURS: Green and yellow green eco prints from leaves; teal-blue or charcoal grey or black with iron. Pinks and light reds from the berries
Sumac is a traditional dye plant, providing light yellow in the dye pot; also a source of tannin for mordanting cellulose fibres.
PLANT: R. typhina
SWEET GUM (Liquidambar styraciflua)
DYE COLOURS: Ecoprinted fall sweet gum leaves: greens, yellows, purples, browns, even pinks
PLANT (shown with eucalyptus):
TAGETES MARIGOLD (Tagetes spp.)
French: Oeillet d’Inde
Orange-yellow prints from petals; green from calices.
TANSY (Tanacetum vulgare)
French: Tanaisie, tanzé
(T.vulgare is the Euro intro; the native is Tanacetum huronense, but rare.)
DYE COLOURS: Yellow from tansy ‘buttons’; green from leaves
Tansy is a traditional dye-pot plant
ECO PRINT: Tansy (See also tansy buttons with the Japanese indigo, previous)
TULIP (Tulipa spp.)
Aside: Thank you, Holland: Ottawans love their tulips! The Queen of the Netherlands took refuge in Ottawa during 1939 -1945 war and her daughter was born here. Afterwards, Holland sent millions of tulips every year to Canada as a thank-you. Ottawa has an annual Tulip Festival every May in celebration
DYE COLOURS: From various petal colours on paper: eco printed greens, teals, yellows, pinks, purples:
VIOLETS (Viola sp. )
Native: Viola canadensis (white), v. labradorica (purple-green leaves, blue flowers); V. pubescens (yellow), V. sororia (blue)
DYE COLOURS: Blue petals print teal green-blue on paper; heart-shaped leaves print green. The white ‘Canada violet’ prints yellow or yellow-green. To be honest, I am not quite sure what the name if this blue violet is – maybe V. sororia?
VIRGINIA CREEPER (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)
French: Vigne vièrge.
DYE COLOURS:: Berries give a fugitive blue-purple in an eco print; leaves, a wimpy yellow-green. Reported as fugitive in the traditional dye pot and even a no-show. Under investigation by your author. Iris Dulman, eco-printer extraordinaire and generous teacher, makes wonderful prints with this plant.
ECO PRINT: Virginia creeper:
BLACK WALNUT (Juglans nigra)
French: Noyer noir.
Black walnut is a traditional dye-pot plant, no mordant needed (it is a substantive dye)
DYE COLOURS: Fruit gives lasting browns from the green husks in fall; leaves, rich yellows in late summer, early fall
WILLOW (Salix spp.)
Native. S. alba, s. nigra, etc.
French: Saule spp.
DYE COLOURS: Yellowish-tan eco print without iron.