Tag Archives: dandelion

Dyeing red with dandelion–more speculation

Some time ago, there was quite a conversation about dyeing with dandelion here. Just in case the name of a chicory that I grow–Chicory ‘red dandelion’ might be a clue to some crooked turn in the path on this subject where names had been mixed up–I tried dyeing with chicory root here to no very exciting outcome.  I did a bit more research on the subject after our last conversation, and here is what I can add…

Accounts of how reds may be obtained from dandelions:

Winifred E Shand gives the account that got me started on the dandelions in my garden, in: ‘Dyeing Wool in the Outer Hebrides’ in Dye Plants and Dyeing–A Handbook (Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, Brooklyn NY, 1964) 64.  She says that to obtain ‘Dandelion (Bearnan Bride) Magenta (Taraxacum officinale) Use whole plant, boil for two hours, remove plant and boil wool for half an hour.’  The author clearly collected these recipes from other people, though she does refer to ‘most of the recipes which I have collected and tried out…’.  Mordants are mentioned in many recipes but not this one, and it is clear there are some  recipes she hasn’t tried out.  Those involving urine, for example, where her feelings on the subject are made known in plain terms!

There is a writer on Ravelry who states that she has obtained red from dandelion but was not using taraxacum officinale.  Rather, she believes the original Scottish plant was a red-veined form called Leontodon palustre.  Now known as taraxacum palustre (marsh dandelion) it clearly has been identified in North America and many other parts of the world.  It was thought to be a subspecies of taraxacum officinale in the past, and is known by a variety of other names.  You can read her account of how it was done, using a fermentation method, by searching for Purple from Dandelions on Ravelry.  That, my friends, is the end of all I can tell you about how to obtain red from dandelion.  On the other hand, I can point to a couple of  sceptics:

  • Hetty Wickens, Natural Dyes for Spinners and Weavers (Batsford, , London, 1983) 10-11 ‘Dandelion roots have always been a great disappointment to me.  Scottish dyers are said to have obtained magenta from dandelion roots, but I have only obtained a dirty yellow.  (My dandelions grew in Sussex).’
  • Ida Grae Nature’s Colors: Dyes from Plants (MacMillan Publishing, New York, 1974) 20 ‘Much mention has been made of the dandelion root yielding magenta.  I have never found it so.  One of my students from the East Coast [USA] says that a lavender-gray is sometimes obtained from this root.’

A number of authors I have read describe dandelion as a source of greens and/or yellows only:

  • Jenny Dean, Wild Colour: How to Grow, Prepare and Use Natural Plant Dyes (revised) (Mitchell Beazley, London 2010) 137 (Though see this post on Jenny dean’s blog which speaks to their reputation for giving magenta).
  • Karen Leigh Casselman Craft of the Dyer: Colour from Plants and Lichens (2nd edition) (Dover Press, New York, 1993) 134
  • Joyce Lloyd Dyes from Plants of Australia and new Zealand: A Practical Guide for Craftworkers (Reed, Sydney, 1971) 37
  • Alma Lesch, Vegetable Dyeing: 151 Color Recipes for Dyeing Yarns and Fabrics with Natural Materials (Watson-Guptill, New York, 1970) 41-42
  • See, too, the Harris Tweed Authority (this page has wonderful pictures of Scots women dyeing).

A couple of others I consulted offered no comment whatever:

  • Betty E M Jacobs Growing Herbs and Plants for Dyeing (Select Books, Missouri, 1977)
  • Rita J Adrosko Natural Dyes and Home Dyeing (Dover Publications, new York, 1971)

So there you have it!  Dandelions have many fine qualities but magenta dye may or may not be one of them unless, perhaps you can access Leontodon palustre

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Dyeing red with dandelion… or not!

It was a day for harvesting…

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…and a friend from the Guild had given me a booklet from the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens which described a method for achieving magenta with dandelion (taraxacum 0fficinale).  As I’ve said before, rumours on this subject are many but claims of a result are few, and better dyers than myself have been defeated (at least temporarily) by the challenge of obtaining any shade of red from dandelion.  The booklet came from the stash of an older woman who was giving things away, and dates to the 1960s.  I have to say the method sounded improbable to me, but I love to use my weeds, and magenta is promising!  I am happy feeding weeds to my hens or my friends or even my compost, and dyeing is another good use.  I gathered up all I could find with roots attached, since the recipe called for cooking the whole plant for two hours.

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Well, my friends, the mystery of how red was ever obtained from dandelion was not ended by this experiment.  It wasn’t much of a try-out for my rhubarb-leaf mordanted yarns, either!  I don’t see any change from the pre-dyeing colour of any yarn on my sample card.  Has a crucial step (like a mordant) been left out of the process?  Is this yet another case of user error on my part?  I simply don’t know.  But if any reader does know–I am all ears!

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