Sunday, 18 July 2010


Not a colour I often get asked for but earlier on this week one of my regular customers emailed me to ask for 200g of  brown . I had some rhubarb root with iron but not much else so enjoying the challenge I set to soaking and mordanting.
 I decided to go for the boiled madder brown, cutch and logwood (chocolate brown)  and because I had  had a brown recently with eucalyptus leaves and iron  (when I was trying to get black) I decided to try that. (Why did I not do just cutch?I haven't an  idea just trying to be too clever by half I think plus the fact that cutch on wool is not a strong brown)
Natural dyes are perverse,  maddening and never do what you want .  The boiled madder refused to go brown -now how often have you seen in dye books "be careful not to raise the temperature of the bath too high as you  will get a brown"! Over dyed orange madder in indigo normally gives a wonderful warm brown but this time gave me a fabulous purple.  If I had been trying for purple I would have got brown. The eucalyptus which gave a wonderful warm brown with iron is giving a soft greens  browns and almost creams ,but here the difference must have been in the soaking time as previously it was soaked for  at least a week after boiling.  The cutch and logwood came out a wonderful dark grey.  I added some fustic extract why I don't know I think that morning my brain was a bit addled  and I suppose because until I rinsed it I  thought it was purple) and it went green so I added some madder extract and that is still in the pot waiting to be rinsed. All these" not browns but something else"  is partly because I  tend not to keep enough records-mea culpa- and also because I do just tend  to dye rather than dyeing for particular colours but  it would have been infuriating if I had not got such a fabulous grey and also the purple from madder and indigo which  is lovely. I can use all the colours and sell them so it is not a problem really but dyeing for specific colour is not my forte.
Here are some of them hanging on the line.
Above a very exhausted madder giving beige, Cutch/logwood/fustic. Eucalpyptus and iron  (also on right). Madder overdyed in indigo. Cutch/logwood first bath.   Next to it just out the bath so very wet is madder and iron.  A lovely dark red not really a brown. Hiding shyly under the  dark indigo-incidentally at least 8 dips- is a brown.Orange madder overdyed in indigo second attempt.
In more detail.
The over dyeing in indigo is patchy because I was using quite a small vat.  Now wouldn't you think I would  know better!
Now I will go and rinse the remainder out.  Also I shall be rinsing out to day some of the hand painted 15micron merino I dyed yesterday with extracts.  They are looking fabulous. I am teaching the way to felt with  this fabulous fibre  at Malvern Hills Summer School in August in one day workshop.


  1. Thanks Kathy.My customer picked them up today taking one of all 3 browns and seemed pleased!

  2. I'm glad you didn't get frustrated getting anything but brown and liked all the emerging colours. I love them all but the brown.

  3. I was a bit annoyed with myself for not being able to get it but on the other hand the madder overdyed in indigo was so fabulous and so was the cutch/ logowod midnight grey I was excited too!

  4. ah well, I'd want the purple over the brown any day:)) this dyeing on demand is always a problem for me: I ended up with loads of reds and pinks - before I finally managed to get the asked for pink tone my friend wanted:)) that taught me a lesson - never to offer a special colour! take it or leave it is my motto now:))

  5. Well I agree with you Bettina. I find dyeing on demand difficult partly because I tend not to dye precisely but just tend to to throw approximate quantities in and see what happens.
    I am about to start a big dye with lots of garden plants ready for the BBC coming on Tuesday.
    I shall dye lots of yellows and overdye witht he blues so will end up with lots of blues and greens. I tend to run out of the latter very quickly so this year I thought I would go for it!

  6. Gorgeous results. Brown is just an elusive color, I guess!

  7. That was funny! when you want colours you get brown galore, so I had a chuckle over you trying and trying...I am a dyer like you, not very meticulous, so alchemy is certainly involved, not to mention good luck...I did love all the colours.

  8. Hi cedar
    I ma glad it made you laugh. I thought it really funny too. yesterday I got black without trying! I boiled some alkanet by mistake and the fibre is a deep glossy black! Where would be be without mistakes!