Alkanet and pomegranate

A friendly natural dyer (and highly accomplished spinner and weaver) from the Guild gave me a gift a while back.  Alkanet root! This is a dyestuff I had not expected ever to be able to use, and a welcome gift: very generous of him!

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Once it went into the bottom of the dye pot, its purpleness became ever clearer–albeit with some camera help!  Jenny Dean clearly doesn’t like the smell of alkanet, and I have seen other dyers suggest it is especially unpleasant.  For me, it evoked a rotting tropical fruit.  The kind of thing some people find delicious and others find appalling. I do prefer the lovely smell of madder or eucalypt, but wasn’t troubled by the alkanet root bath.  Mind you, I dye out of doors.

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As it happened, this was the same day I made a delectable juice from the last of the season’s pomegranates.  Years back, I  noticed just one pomegranate tree in all the streets of the neighbourhood where I walk that never, ever, had a rotting fruit fallen underneath it.  The tree was always in superb condition–clearly loved, tended and cared for by knowledgeable people.  One day I found the people from that garden in the front yard and asked what they did with the fruit, because at that point, no one I knew had ever served them up to me (all this has since changed).  The man I asked went into the house and brought me out a sample of the pomegranate juice he had made for his dinner guests!  And then explained how to make it by releasing the jewel like seeds from the skin and then putting them in a food processor and straining the results.  So.  That’s how I had used the fruit.  And this is all that was left.

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Jenny Dean came with me again for the ride, and some of my cold alum mordanted fleece-of-Viola went into the pots.  Once I had carried out Jenny Dean’s alkanet instructions, I threw more fleece into the pot to see whether there would be any additional colour in there.

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On the left, the alkanet purple.  Upper right, alkanet exhaust, which I would call a pale brown.  Bottom right, the pomegranate yellow.  Subtle but pleasing.


Filed under Natural dyeing

8 responses to “Alkanet and pomegranate

  1. You didn’t need to soak the alkanet in alcohol first, to extract the color?


    • No. Jenny Dean explains that there is a red substance in alkanet that is only soluble in alcohol–but I used the water based method for purples and greys.


  2. you cant get alkanet where you are? I can get it mail order but never much think about smells, I just sort of expect them to smell and block it out


    • I’m sure there would be a way to get it on mail order, but I’d never thought of doing it. I mostly dye from what I can find and grow–and less often, from things that have been gifted or just left at the Guild. Oh, and there’s indigo 🙂 I was really interested that the smell warranted comment by more than one person! but it’s true I do notice the ones I really like and the ones my beloved objects to.


  3. Susan

    Interesting, had to look it up. It’s even used in soap making! Thanks again for expanding my universe 🙂


  4. There’s two Indian groceries in Adelaide I’ve found it in so far. Apparently it’s used as a food colouring, but a couple of sources suggest it isn’t entirely safe for that purpose. Who cares, as long as the dye bath works!


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