Tag Archives: dyeing with eucalyptus

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

A Test for the Wash Fastness

As the Natural Dye Stuffs exploring process is so gripping it is so easy to get drifted away in search for the perfect print.

You set up test after the test, bundle after the bundle, and each time you really get more and more exciting results; sometimes yet faults occur but those serve only to urge forward the maker.

But on some point you wanna get an idea of how much you can actually rely upon your results. How long would last this color, or effect? If a color shift would happen within a time? If yes, what to expect then? 

Even if it is a framable art, or a wall piece, you would not appreciate the image varnishing in half a year, not to mention the surprise for the clientele…

Should I mention the wearables? Taking into consideration the amount of work it takes to create a decent piece, it’s kinda undesirable to get the colors bleeding after the wash, or any other discrepancies between your result and the quality standart.


So, no matter how much I enjoy getting a nice natural print, I have been spending quite some time on testing my dyed and printed results for all sorts of treatments. 


And one of the first tested objects proved to be worth the time and effort invested in it!

Not long ago I posted some close -up shots of it on my FB page

and quite a few people liked it, which I appreciate a lot!

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I did not mention in my post though, that it was a cotton jersey top, an item subject to wearing and washing, and exposing to the direct sunlight!

The prints themselves were awesome!

I was going to run the test first and then consider the results. And, as I’ve mentioned before the test object proved good, so I’ll add a few words to this story to summarize the dyeing process.

The black color resulted from this dyeing session was a sheer surprise that day, as I was chasing the reds from euca at that time, and this was one of my many trials when I was getting anything but no red!

All sorts of brown and yellow shades. But Black! Really, did not see that coming…

Well , as I learnt later on,  from all the world’s huge variety of the euca species

I was lucky enough to have “a non-red” type at my disposal.

So, for this dye bath I used crashed dried euca from the pharmacy. I did not pretreat the fabric with alum.

I added a mighty rusted pipe to the bath, as dear Irit recommended me on the FB group to add some iron.

I assume the rusty pipe affected the dye bath ratio in kinda weird way!

For the prints I rolled the presoaked in water dried euca leaves of some local Crimea euca type, the origin is unknown. The bundles from this session were curing for about a week up to 10 days maybe before opening. And it was over a month before I washed the cotton jersey top in the washing machine with a mild detergent. Not to forget that I ironed it a with steam iron prior to the treatment!

The ready to go item did not lose any color intensity, nor did any color shift occur!


This is all as for the report on testing color.

I believe at present I will  follow this way of estimation of my dyeing results,

presenting nice prints and colors, if any, along with the reporting on

their fastness to different sorts of treatments.

P.S. Thanks to you my friend Maggie Drake, now I know first hand that euca does yield different sorts of red and orange shades. It’s all about the euca type you’re dealing with! Thank you, my dear friend! I appreciate it very much!



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