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How to Create a Natural Dye from Wisteria Flowers

How to Create a Natural Dye from Wisteria Flowers

Google the phrase “Wisteria Dye” and you will get a lot of images of things like tee shirts and yarn  and ribbon in gorgeous pinky-lavender colors…like the colors of wisteria flowers.  However, when you use the wisteria plant as a dyeing agent, you don’t get that hue at all.

What you get, surprisingly enough, is a bright yellowish green.

Gardenista contributor Jeanne recently learned several interesting things from Sasha Duerr, founder and co-director of the Permacouture Institute in San Francisco.  As you would expect from someone who spends her days promoting natural, sustainable practices in textile manufacturing, Sasha is an expert when it comes to dyeing fabric with materials furnished by Mother Nature.

Here are her tips for creating a natural dye from Wisteria.

Photographs by Sasha Duerr.

Above: Abundant wisteria. To learn more about it history and ravenous tendencies, see Wisteria: A Dangerous Beauty (Are You Tempted?).

Sasha recommends always using natural fabrics such as silk or wool for your projects. She dyed some silk swatches with wisteria as a test. First she gathered some leaves and stems.  A general rule of thumb is that the amount of material used to make the dye should weigh twice as much as the fabric you are dyeing.

If you are using light weight silk, as Sasha did, you do not need a lot of plant cuttings.  Chop the stems, petals, and leaves into small pieces with pruners or cooking shears.

Fill your stainless steel pot with water, throw in a handful of soda ash, add the stems and leaves and bring to a boil.  Simmer (be careful not to over-boil) until all the color has come out of the plant material and then add your fabric which you have pre-rinsed in water.

Let the fabric sit in the bath anywhere from 15 minutes to overnight, depending on the shade of color you hope to achieve.  Remove the fabric and wash it in a PH neutral soap.  Line dry it and then, this is the exciting part, see what you’ve got.

After Sasha had tested the wisteria dye using soda ash, she experimented with other mordants, or fixatives, such as alum and iron.  The resulting colors were quite different and beautiful.

If you want more information on dyeing techniques, see Back to Nature: Plant Dyes from Permacouture.

Read more: Crafts & Design, Crafts & Hobbies, Gardenista, Materials & Architecture, Reduce, Recycle & Reuse, Surprising uses for ..., , , , ,

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Gardenista

Gardenista is a one-stop sourcebook for cultivated living, a guide to outdoor design and gardening. Helmed by former New York Times columnist Michelle Slatalla, Gardenista features inspiration, garden visits, and advice for all things outdoor living, from patios and peonies, to tables and terraces. Gardens matter, and Gardenista celebrates tomatoes on the fire escape as much as rolling acres of green.

36 comments

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7:27AM PDT on Jun 26, 2013

Thank you Gardenista, for Sharing this!

9:39AM PDT on Jun 20, 2013

good to know

3:25AM PDT on Jun 20, 2013

Thanks

6:02AM PDT on Jun 19, 2013

Thanks

9:45PM PDT on Jun 17, 2013

cool

7:19PM PDT on Jun 17, 2013

interesting my flowers have bloomed already but I am saving this for future use I think I will try and dye some wood with it.

4:05AM PDT on Jun 16, 2013

Make good use of what we've been given

11:38AM PDT on Jun 15, 2013

Very cool and sounds fun ~ Thank you!

2:27AM PDT on Jun 15, 2013

Wisteria Lane :p

10:56AM PDT on Jun 14, 2013

Thank you for the interesting ideas.

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