Wednesday, 28 July 2010
Visits to the dye garden, the BBC and Hopi Red Dye Plant
Well I am here typing, because while DH is snoozing peacefully down stairs with dog, I am upstairs in my office having -and this is sod's law- woken up early! So I thought I would share with you my experiments with hopi red dye plant. Amaranthus .whatsit I have been told by a friendly comment that this is A. cruentus x A. powellii,which is just as well as every time I ask Enys she looks vague!
Enys tried to grow this two years ago, The seeds did not germinate so she threw the compost onto the greenhouse floor in disgust. The following year she noticed she had lots of little red plants growing on the green house floor. So she planted loads in my garden and in her own and in the green house.
When it came to dye with them I could find out very little. None of my dye books -even the one Enys bought back from the USA on native North American Dye Plants contains any information beyond the fact that the Hopi Indians used it for dyeing corn in ceremonies. A quick search on Google was not much help either resulting only in that the Aztecs also used it in some ceremonies around blood.
So I picked a large handful of leaves and flowers chopped them up covered with water and added some pre-mordanted silk and teeswater fleece and heated in a slow cooker. The teeswater went orange and the silk pinks as you can see but the pink washed out. I added some more fibres to the dye bath and everything went a deep vivid pink. About an hour of heating it all went orange and then another hour ) the colour had almost gone and all I was left with was a beige.
Aha! I thought to my self, this plant is a candidate for long slow dyeing , along with red cabbage and others where the dye seems to be destroyed by heat. (the only information I could gather was that the dyes are anthocynanins).
I had a friend here for the afternoon who often gets pressed into helping me and she suggested that we split the plant. So we made up three solar pots one of leaves, of stalks and one of flowers.
These are now sitting in my sunny place waiting for some really hot sun to get going. All the pots have now dyed the fibres a deep pink.