Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Harvested || Dye From Red Bud Blossoms

Back in April, I did some solar dyeing demonstrations for Earthfest at Martin Park Nature Center, in conjunction with my outdoor exhibition, Niche.  Oklahoma's state tree is eastern red bud, and they are abundant here.  Funny enough, our climate tends to be a little hard on these little trees in the summer - they often have sunscald, splits in the trunk and decay, especially when growing in full sun.  The 'Oklahoma' variety has a thicker cuticle on its leaves and tends to be a little more tolerant of heat and drought.  In any case, red bud puts on quite a show in the spring with the small purple blooms lining its branches.  We have a few fairly mature specimens in the back yard, and I decided to try a little experiment this spring.  I collected a bagful of blossoms to use in one of my demonstration jars, unsure of what the outcome would be.  Flowers can be deceptive when it comes to dyeing - I learned that when I got a lovely sage green from prairie coneflower last summer.  While I would have been delighted with a purple hue, I went into this experiment without expectations, and I was wowed by the result.  After two and a half months in the dye jar, I finished with incredibly vibrant, golden yarn.  It's beautiful!  Next year I will definitely make more, and try it out with different mordants to see the variation.  

This yarn was dyed using red bud blossoms with an alum mordant and a splash of vinegar.  I boiled half of my blooms to extract color before putting water in the jar with the yarn, and added a handful of fresh flowers to the jar as well.


  1. What a stunning yellow! I love that you shared your technique. Natural dyeing is such a wonderful thing and sharing knowledge is important. I've started doing a bit of experimenting with natural dyes recently and have enjoyed the result (just willy nilly stuff...without any mordant). It seems that most people use alum...I'm going to have to try that!

    I did get a lovely light purple from some purple iris blossoms by just throwing some cotton in the jar! And, frankly, I just kept the jar in the fridge for it to soak.

    1. I was really surprised by the rich yellow hue! I learned to dye from other people who were willing to share the information and I agree with you, we're all in this together! Alum is the safest mordant to use, which I think is why it is so popular. I might have to try that with my irises next year! Haven't tried dyeing with cotton yet, but I would like to try. Good luck!


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