I’ve been bitten by the dyeing bug. This time I wanted to dye using Perilla (Perilla frutescens), a volunteer in our yard.
Perilla frutescens, a member of the mint family, is a purple and green annual. It has lots of names, but is pretty much regarded as a weed. I had heard perilla was used in Japanese cooking. The fresh leaves are used in salads and in wrapping for dishes including sushi. The leaves are also used to color and flavor pickled plums. I’ve just read now that it’s great as a bug repellent! More about this interesting plant here.
But I want to dye fabric with it. So let’s get started!
First you need to “scour” the cotton fabric before mordanting by boiling it for 45 minutes in water with a handful of washing soda and small amount of liquid detergent. Rinse that well.
The next step is mordanting. This helps to join the fiber and dye to set the color permanently. You can read more about mordanting here. I used alum and washing soda, both easily purchased at the local grocery store. After leaving the fabric in this solution overnight, I rinsed it well before the fun began!
The following day I gathered the plant, tore the leaves, and put them in the dye pot.
Next I added twice as much water as plant material to the pot, bringing this to a boil and then simmering for an hour.
Then we’re ready to dye. You can strain the leaves out, but I left them in – just easier.
The fabric is then added fabric to dye bath. The dye water looked kind of reddish so I was quite excited to see my fabric, really hoping for a rose color.
I wanted the strongest shade possible so I covered the dye bath and let it set overnight.
The next morning I opened up the pot and looked in…
and it was GREEN!
I rinsed it out and here are the final pieces.
You will notice that it didn’t dye solid. However, I liked the uneven color and after getting over the shock of no rose tones, I think the green is really pretty.
I knew that natural dyeing would not result in bright colors, but I wanted to try it. I’m happy with the results, but not sure I’ll try this again. But then again, I’ve been known to change my mind.
Have you dyed with plants? I’d love to hear your experience. Thanks for dropping by.
That is a really pretty color.
I have perilla and just figured it would dye some ‘red’ color. Surprised but I like the uneven green color. Would make pretty outdoor cushion covers.
Natural dyeing is probably always a surprise. Have you tried flower pounding using leaves and flowers? You get lots of surprises there too! Great experiment and thank for sharing it with us. It saves us the time of experimenting!
I love experimenting with natural dying- I tried blackberries last year thinking ‘oh lovely purple colour’! And it turned out BROWN! I’ve not seen your Perilla plant before, but I was very startled at the green colour, it is pretty though, and better than brown!!
I got some seeds for Woad last year and have a few plants coming along. Unfortunately with the weird weather we’ve had this last year, the rest of my dyd plants have mostly snuffed it. Woad will be fun though!
Heckety, I thought about trying blackberries but I just can’t justify using them for dye instead of eating them. We always have a good crop of blackberries including our wild but I just can’t bring myself to using them for dye. Yesterday as I was washing and freezing some of them we harvested, I thought about dyeing. But brown!! That is surprising. I’ve read a little about Woad. Would be interesting to see how your woad works. Thanks for dropping by.
Kathy, Yes, I did that leaf pounding (https://lyndaheines.blog/2011/05/hammered-leaves-art/) and the dark purple coleus leaves turned green. I should have remembered that and they (perilla and coleus) are in the same family! Duh!
Bev, Thanks for the idea. When I saw that red dye bath I was so excited. But green is okay too! Thanks for dropping by.
Yart, Thanks! And thanks for stopping by. Lynda
Oh, it came out great Lynda! I haven’t dyed with plants before but it’s been on my “want-to-do” list forever. I’d love to see more experiments 🙂
I am having to help my granddaughter dye wool strips for a science fair project. We achieved a lovely yellow with saffron. Cost; $12. I used vinegar and water and put the saffron in one of my husband’s old handkerchiefs secured with a rubber band. String would have been prettier. I put the saffron on a low boil and let three strips of wool absorb color overnight. Probably the strips were in the dyebath for about 10 hours. They dried a bright yellow when fluffed with a towel in the washer. I put one more strip in the spent dye bath for 30 minutes this morning and achieve a lighter yellow.
Coffee also makes a gentle brown. I dyed several strips of wool in my favorite hazelnut coffee because that’s all I had on hand. I used white vinegar and water. I haven’t tried the salt treatment on the dye strips yet, but I will do so this week. My granddaughter has been helping me prepare strips and check on the simmering wools.
We used some older frozen raspberries and mixed berries to achieve a range of purples. We boiled the fruit with vinegar and drained off the liquid in a collander and then simmered the wool in the drained liquid with vinegar added.
Rose Marie Toubes in Des Moines, Iowa October 28, 2012
Rose, What a fun activity with your granddaughter! Thanks for all of those tips. And thanks for dropping by. Lynda
I bought some off white toms about a year ago, and they were becoming kind of smelly and gross, so I used a little bleach to get rid of the smell (I know its bad for the environment, but its better than buying a new pair I think). Then I boiled them in saskatoon berries (Amelanchier alnifolia), and got a bluish-purple, not VIBRANT, but kind of faded : )
J, Interesting! The natural dyes I’ve tried aren’t vibrant but they are pretty in their natural way. Thanks for dropping by.