Sunday 19 April 2020

Dyeing with Rhubarb

Rhubarb Dyed Fabric & Yarn

It's that time of year when rhubarb is coming into its own and we have a sizeable rhubarb plant on the allotment.  The other day when I picked some to make a rhubarb pudding, I remembered reading about rhubarb leaves.  You can use them to make a mordant solution. A mordant is a dye fixative.  It helps bind the dye to a fabric to make it more colourfast and can affect the resulting colour.  For example, mordants may intensify the dye colour and can also be dyes in their own right.

Rhubarb in the Allotment

The recipe I used was from the Selvedge magazine website where they have a number of different craft projects for you to try.  You can find them all here and the Rhubarb Mordant instructions here.

Harvested Rhubarb

First, chop up the rhubarb leaves.  You need about twice as much dry weight leaves as dry weight fabric.  Five leaves became about 450gm of chopped leaves. The dye is best for animal fibres like wool and silk rather than plant fibres like cotton and linen.

Chopped Rhubarb Leaves

You put the leaves in a pan and cover them with water, bring to the boil and simmer, covered, for an hour.  I didn't have a pan lid so I fashioned one out of  tinfoil.  It suggested using a stainless steel pan but I used an aluminium one because that's what I had.  You shouldn't use any pans that you use for cooking food and as the fumes are toxic you need to do this in a well ventilated area or outside!

Strained Rhubarb Mordant/Dye

Let the mixture cool and then strain the rhubarb leaves and discard.  The remaining solution is now ready to use.

Fabric Submerged in Rhubarb Solution

Next, add the damp fabric and yarn.  You should have washed everything you are adding to the solution to remove any dressings that are on the fabrics/yarns that may affect the uptake of the dye.  I added a piece of wool blanket and what I thought were 2 different thicknesses of wool yarn.

Fabric after Simmering in Rhubarb Solution

Bring it to the boil and simmer, covered, for about an hour.  I then left mine to cool overnight.  After that the dyed items need to be thoroughly rinsed and washed. It was a lovely day so I pegged my fabric and yarns out to dry...

Fabric and Yarn Drying after Washing

You can see the results here.  One of the yarns must have been a mix of wool and other fibres as the dye uptake was very much paler...

Yarn Showing Original & Dyed Colours

And here's the blanket with a piece of the original to show the colour change...

Fabric Showing Original & Dyed Colours

The colour is a sort of mustard/ochre colour.  I knitted up the darker rhubard dyed yarn into some tree brooches...

Tree Brooches Knitted With Rhubarb Dyed Yarn

which you can find in my Folksy shop here.  They will add nicely to my forest of tree brooches...

Other Tree Brooches

Hope you found this interesting.  Have you tried any natural dyeing?

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