Tag Archives: Dye

Euca Works

In my childhood the most popular home remedy for cough was inhalation of eucalyptus vapors obtained either from the oil, or from the dried plant material from the drug store. Ever since then, this method has seemed to me the most pleasantly smelling physiotherapy.

As an adult textile artist I found that dyeing with eucalyptus is quite popular midst the Natural Dyers – no wonder, those nice red to orange prints are so tempting with their vividness on the background of not-so-easy-to-get bright colors from the other natural materials.

Driven by my natural curiosity, not that long ago, I started looking for a chance to try this exotic dye material myself. Since I live in a hundred perсent eauca-free environment, I was somewhat restricted in sources for the testing material.

My very first experiments with euca happened to have unexpected results, if not frustrating. Not only did they bring my childhood memories of the multiple chest colds, but they also differed dramatically  from what was promised by the highly praised source.

Gradually my childhood memories shifted to more pleasant tonality, and I started to get some understanding about cause and effect:

The main fact to be taken into consideration is that the euca is not a local plant for this area. Thus, various plant material, dry or fresh, sprout or mature, from any of the 700 eucalyptus species, are unobtainable. Which means the main condition of getting truly amazing results is infeasible.

Step by step, pulling my theoretical knowledge and summarising my further practical results, I seem to have finally figured out the essence of the matter for myself.

While the most of the Natural Dyes are adjective, and we need hardly mention that chemistry rules here, the dye obtained from eucalyptus is substantive, i.e. the one that dissolves in water. This means that you can get color from eucalyptus simply by processing the plant material with water.  

The reason for not getting the right color, or no coloris having the wrong (of all the 700 species) euca type  as the dyeing material. By the type I mean both wrong specie and/or wrong part of the plant. As simple as that. And no magical recipe ( I hoped so much to find one!).

Any additives to the process can only enhance the present dyeing quality, but it is not possible to switch, say, from no-color to red. This conclusion I got based on my practical drills so far.   Now I am glad I can render some visualization here.              

 I have been lucky to get various euca species plant material at my possession, so I decided not to miss this opportunity and run a comparative  visual test, which I think might be of interest for the guys who do not have euca in their list of endemic plants.

For the test:     I have chosen sample leaves according to my understanding. Considering the shape, size, etc. of the leaves and branches, one can tell these are different species. No taxonomic classification, sorry!

The clear water with salinity as low, as 61 mg/dm3,  was boiled and poured over the leaves (the TDS measured with the meter). The leaves were left for as short as 3 to 5 min, just to cool down enough to put my fingers into. No mordants or modifies used.

I took a piece of viscose for this test, as it is known to be the most difficult surface to treat with natural dyes, as it has the least affinity for the plant dyes. I assumed that obtaining distinct prints that way would not be possible and I wanted to skip the prints part, as nice euca prints are already a well-known phenomenon today. And my idea for this test was to observe a substantive dye extraction and not be carried away by the artistic part.

01euc 03euc 04euc

As it is seen from the pix above some leaves are just over full with dye; it looks like the dye is already there on the surface. Some are just neutrally colored. 

The following was actually a surprise! Meaning, I assumed the dye should be easily obtained. But, Gee, that was fast!

In less than 2 min a leaf started bleeding bright red color! A minute later another specie bled vivid orange… What can I say? The expriment could have been terminated right there, for I got the proof for my guess-work.

05euc 06euc 07euc

The neutrally colored leaves below did not yield any dye ever; even after 1,5 h simmering there was no coloring effect worth mentioning.

Meanwhile, the dye extraction continued and more of the leaves yielded their red and orange shades on the cloth; no heat applied or anything.

And this only after a few minutes spent in hot water! What about an hour or a day soaking? Unbelievable!

08euc 09euc 10euc 11euc 12euc 13euc 14euc 15euc

All the above pix were taken before simmering, during a really short period of time from 7 to 15 minutes, I guess, when I was taking the leaves out of the water they were soaking in and arranging them on the cloth surface.

This, usually preliminary part of the dyeing process, in this case turned out to be a most informative and obvious and I decided it states the point all-right. So, I am skipping the after-simmering illustration.

Well, I assume that the above enlightenment  along with my sheer amazement, looks probably ridiculous to the guys who grew under the shade of the euca tree forest.

If I were a child of such forest, or at least had an eucalyptus tree or two in the area near by, I would definitely stick to the euca species as my major dyeing plant!

But, as the Reality stipulates otherwise, I am getting back to my lovely local endemics, not so approachable at times, but surely so promising

The Time Factor: a Day versus Two Months

As we all are aware of the extreme importance of the Time in the dyeing process, an awfully generalized instruction ‘The longer the time, the better the results” is very often applied, especially by the newbies, to all stages of the process unquestioningly and with no doubts

Some novices are certain that the reason for not getting the right color and/or print is them having been impatient and not letting the roll of dyed fabric sit for too long…

Of course, Time and Temperature are the two key factors of the dyeing process!

But there are also such inputs, as fibers condition, plant material quality, mordants, length of bath after all… Though the last value is the least popular aspect I’d say… All these and quite a few other things may influence the outcome. 

Nevertheless, the question that I am asked more often is about Time! Specifically about that sort of the Time which, say, starts right after you take off your pot from the heat source and ends up when you open the dyed fabric.

To finally separate the wheat from the chaff and not to rely upon the random outcome, I decided to run a comparative test to see how the Curing Time affects the result of the dyeing process in terms of the color yield/intensity and the sharpness of the prints, if any. In this test I was going to estimate only the visible side of the deal, not dwelling upon the Colorfastness at this point.

Fabric: Two lengths of silk previously sandwiched in between rusty sheets of iron, sprinkled with vinegar and cured for up to one week.

Plant material:My local favs – Sumac, Cotinus, vine leaf, Prunus Padus, maple leaf.

Process: The fabric folded with plant material and steamed. One length was left overnight and opened the next day; the other was left for two months.

The Visual Part: the Fast and the Slow Piece

The Fast Piece

The Fast Piece

The Slow Piece

The Slow Piece

And here are some details of the Fast Piece:

Sumac Print in the Fast Piece

Sumac Print in the Fast Piece

Various Plant Material in the Fast Piece

Various Plant Material in the Fast Piece

An Outstanding Maple Leaf Print in the Fast Piece

An Outstanding Maple Leaf Print in the Fast Piece

The details of the Slow Piece:

Cotinus Print in the Slow Piece

Cotinus Print in the Slow Piece

Cotinus and Prunus Padus in the Slow Piece

Cotinus and Prunus Padus in the Slow Piece

Various Plant Material in the Slow Piece

Various Plant Material in the Slow Piece

Now as we see, there is a very distinct difference in these two pieces. Using my sight as the only measuring instrument assigned for this experiment, I can tell that

  • The background in the Fast Piece is whiter;
  • The background in the Slow Piece is more muted;
  • The multicolor palette achieved in the Fast Piece is bright and crisp;
  • The color combination in the Slow Piece is more of the earthy tones, yet clear and intense

Of course, I have just scratched the enormous area of the Time Factor in the Dyeing Practice, and to positively state any consistent pattern here one should have run numerous number of tests and experiments.

But at this point I come to conclusion that not only it is an illusion to believe that the longer curing time gives better results, there is NO universal recipe in terms of Time use;

Time is one of the variables of the dyeing process, altering which we can get varied results. 

More on Wash Fastness

As much as I enjoy obtaining refined and unique marks from the plant material on fabric I cannot but brood over the Wash Fastness aspect, especially when it comes to wearables.

The common advice that can be most often found regarding washing and caring for naturally dyed textiles, is to hand wash it in cold water, or use a gentle cycle in the washing machine.

In my practice with natural dyestuffs I tend to meticulously run my own experiments to see how the same recipe/regularity works for me. Well, the moment I got my very first satisfying dyed pattern on a wearable item I immediately put on considering cap:

How long a garment treated with the natural dyes will serve before the increasing color fading from the multiple washes finally gives it an unappealing look?

Provided, of course, that the garment has been properly treated with mordants, as well as that the dyeing process has been carried out aptly.

07 08 09

For the silk accessories and such, the washing matter does not look as much uncertain as for the sportswear for instance. 

I really would have doubts as for a jersey T-shirt and a gentle washing cycle… Well, maybe I am just too lazy to consider a hand-wash, or is it just that I know that you cannot give a quality wash to a jersey T-shirt without presoaking it, which will definitely affect the natural dyes. So, why not give a try to a conventional washing then?

Still wearing the same considering cap, I got a dyed jersey shirt:





I decided to wear it on a regular basis from the moment I finished working on it last September, and throw it into the washing machine with the rest of my light-colored laundry; I used my usual detergent, Persil most of the time, for cotton fabrics.

These are some close-ups of the shirt pattern right after dyeing:

12 13 15

And now after three months and 15 to 18 washes, this is what I end up with at this moment:

01 02 03 04 05 06

Not sure how much obvious it really is from the pics, but the background color retains its corn-colored hue; while the bluish marks from the tannins have shifted towards brown color, as the result of their exposure to the high Ph of the washing powder.

Well, at this point my shirt still works for me. Which is fine. I’ll keep my further records on the gradual color shift and/or loosing color of this item.

Determining the point when the T-shirt starts looking toneless will surely give the better idea about the general shelf-life of my naturally-dyed clothes, which is essential info to be labeled on my naturally dyed collection.

So, dear colleagues, and what advice do you label your naturally dyed wearables with?


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