Making dyes, inks and paints from plants
Fire Posts: 17,116
I've been experimenting with extracting pigments from plants, for the last few years. I'm especially interested in using plants I grow or that I can find growing nearby. I have made simple paint washes in the past, simmering berries in water, for example, sieving and reducing the solution down to a usable concentrate with an interesting colour. This is fun, easy, kids love it and it's quite a fascinating process. You can make a simple cloth dye in a similar way. Easy plants to first try from the garden, might include strawberries, blackberries, sloes, elderberries; dahlia, goldenrod, pelargonium, calendula, buddleja petals, or nettle leaves.
The next step on might be to help the colour stick and stay longer. Adding gum Arabic (edible) can make pigment last as a ink or a paint. Mordanting cloth with something like alum can make it become more colour fast, so the colours don't run and stay how and where you want them.
My current experiments with dye, paint and ink are using gum and alum, in an attempt to get a more professional and usable end result that doesn't fade or wash out. I am also working with my garden clay to this end.
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Alum mordanted cloth in dark dahlia petal dye (Rip City). I'm learning as I go.
A remarkable number of plants will yield up their strong pigment. From the kitchen, ones to look out for might be beetroot, onion skins and turmeric. Ingredients to buy in might be indigo, woad or madder bark (woad is not so hard to grow).
Jenny Dean has a great, detailled instruction book, covering barks, roots, leaves and petals - called Wild Colour.
Also, check out bundle dyeing. A bit easier, if you want to skip the straining and boiling down type activities.
I remember watching it on some programme that monks would grind the galls up then use what ever was inside as ink, they would write books with it.
I don’t know all the in’s and out’s of how you do it but just a thought. 🙂
Failure is always an option.
I have heard about the Oak Galls.