Manjistha (Indian madder)

I was going to try some new dyestuffs, so I tried this Indian madder, manjistha (Rubia cordifolia). I had dry roots bought from a herb store, used a usual recipe for madder-like things: soaked for a while (about a day), added some calcium, then simmered for a few hours, then left for a while still, then strained, added alum and tried dyeing. After a few long (multiple hour) dyeing sessions, in-between which I let the egg dry out, here is what I got. It’s a bit more orange that a brown egg would be. It took very slowly, and the shade it not very deep.

It’s possible that I messed up something with the recipe, perhaps I should have chopped the roots up to make them finer (I’ve seen that recommendation somewhere). Manjistha is supposed to be less afraid of heat than regular madder (the main dyeing component, manjisthin, is present in madder too, but in a much smaller proportion), so I don’t thing that I overheated it. I used distilled water this time, who knows, maybe manjistha doesn’t like that. I din’t like the smell very much from the beginning, and after a few days the dye has started fermenting, so I ditched it. I dryed out the used roots and kept them in case I want to use them again – this is recommended with roots in general. Still have half of the original amount of unused roots, but probably won’t try it again any time soon – too much effort for a result that is too weak.

Anyway, one more thing was tried.

Carrot tops

This is the dye stuff that is easily available, as far as I know it just gets thrown away, so why not try to make a dye, I thought. And I did. Usual approach, boiled carrot tops in water about 20 min, left it to soak overnight, strained, added alum. The lighter color took about 20 min, the darker was left there for about 20 hrs.

This dye spoils very fast, but if you can get it for free and if you like that kind of canary yellow – why not try?

I don’t know yet how it will handle the light, I guess we’ll see.

Books: Natural Dyes by Dominique Cardon

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The long awaited “bible” of natural dyeing has been waiting for me in Regina (I had it shipped here). The book is expensive, but it’s over 700 pages of large format with gorgeous illustrations and more information than I can absorb in quite a while. It has lots of things that I haven’t seen in any of the other books, but its focus is on the natural dyes that have had historic significance, not so much on the backyard sources of color. Having said that, a number of the North American as well as European backyard solutions can also be found in this book, with historic as well as archeological references that might not be available elsewhere and are most interesting. In a way, I think, this is the most fascinating part of the book, and I will likely keep posting some “stories” from this book, starting maybe with a historic witness account of how Ukrainians were harvesting the “Polish” cochineal.

Here is the list of contents, just to give you some sense of what’s there:  Continue reading

Fresh coreopsis orange – recipe.

Finally, there were enough blooms on my potted coreopsis to attempt to make a dye, and so I did. This is classic coreopsis tinctoria, or plains coreopsis that I grew from the seeds. First shade took 30 min. in the dye, background- repeated dyeing including overnight. It turned out much more orange than I expected – the extract never gave me orange like this, only gold, but then, I never cooked the extract, just added boiling water to it. It might be worth experimenting with not cooking the fresh flowers also, just steeping in boiling hot water, and seeing whether the color is different. Unfortunately, I probably won’t get a chance to try it this year, but maybe someone else will :). Now, the recipe: Continue reading

Local (sic.) source of sappan wood

You know, that sappan wood I keep talking about, that gives the red or pink, or orange after yellow color? I’m running out of my supply, and so I looked around some more in case I won’t find anyone to bring me some from India. Since it is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (Chinese name is Su Mu), I googled and then e-mailed the main Chinese herb stores and clinics in Toronto, asking if they had any.

This one http://www.greatchinaherbscentre.com in Downtown Toronto said they have it and sell it for $12 per pound. This is still 3 times more expensive than what I would get in India, but it is also 3 times cheaper than maiwa, and it is right here, next to the AGO. (I’ve been inside that store, but haven’t bought anything there.)

So, if you live close to a major Chinese community hub, try the Chinese medicine store, they might have sappan wood. It also has major medicinal qualities, which, I suspect, could do me good, so I might even try drinking some, that is, after getting a proper prescription, or it might be deadly – I read that it did kill some animals in pharmaceutical research, but I didn’t pay attention how big was the animal, and now potent a doze :).

Sappan wood – brasilwood from India – some history, background, and recipes

Sappan wood (Ceasalpinia sappan) has become my favourite source of red color for now. Native to Asia, it is the “older” cousin of what is now known as Brazil wood. When the Portuguese invaded what is now Brazil in 1500, the redwood trees they saw growing there reminded them of Sappan wood, which they already knew, called it pau-brasil and used for dyeing along with the rest of the Europe. Because of extensive use for dye and for violin bows, or perhaps the opposite, because the dye business was not economically profitable after the invention of the chemical dyes, or maybe due to both these reasons, the Brazil wood (Ceasalpinia echinata, Paubrasilia echinata) is almost extinct now, Wikipedia says that the trade of Brazilwood is likely to be banned in the immediate future. So now we are back to the good old Sappan wood, which is still available and abundant in India and China. It is used medicinally in both Ayurveda (where it’s called Pathimukham) and in Traditional Chinese medicine (where it’s called Su Mu). Continue reading