One of the holy grail natural dyes seems to be St John’s Wort, capable of producing reds, pinks, yellows and greens from the same flowers. Investigating this, I deduce that this ideal plant is Hypericum Perforatum, which is a small plant, quite distinct from the hypericum shrubs that appear to be beloved of municipal planting schemes, at least in Leicester. Before I worked this out, I picked 5 flowers of the ordinary kind from a park shrub and brewed them up in a tiny bit of water, following (ish) India Flint’s multiple extraction process to see if I could get different colours. The first was golden yellow but the second and third brews didn’t produce much. As it cooled, the dye started to turn pinky-orange and after an hour or so, was rich madder pink! Is this some kind of oxidisation? I’ve no idea.
I soaked a few pieces of unmordanted silk in the tiny dyebath and produced a lovely peachy pink, not dissimilar to avocado but with a more orangey tint. Gorgeous!
A couple of weeks ago I found another patch of the shrubs still in flower and picked a huge bag full.
I tried the same dye extraction method but this time it took many, many repeated boilings. I got a lot of very pale yellow dye which didn’t turn pink-red so I kept going. Eventually the orangey-pink colour started to come out so I strained off into a different dye bath and after 20 or so repeated extractions, the orange kept coming but I gave up, exhausted with it!
The colour changed dramatically again; yellow is the first series of extractions, then the lighter orange was where I stopped. After a couple of hours it changed to the darker colour. I’ve not dyed with this vat yet.
Yesterday I spent a wonderful day on Clarabella’s A Muted Palette natural dye workshop, experimenting with subtle colours, modified with iron, called saddening. I learned a huge amount and am now very keen to experiment more to create the kind of muted and mottled fabrics and threads that I love to use. I’ll add photos of them soon.