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 (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
I was checking out some books in the library, to see whether I am going to buy them or not, and stumbled upon this one, which I won’t get, but it might be of interest to someone else. There is a fairly good collection of books on natural dyes in the library at the Royal Ontario Museum (and here I didn’t even know they had a library!), so this is where I went on a book scouting trip last week.
Here’s the table of contents:They teamed up and tested all the recipes that are provided (on textiles, of course). What is nice about this book is that every recipe comes with a sketch of the plant. Here is bloodroot, one of the traditional East coast North American plants that is supposed to give colors within the red range (hence the name if the plant):
The recipes do not mention lightfastness at all, which for me is a significant downside, but the sketches are nice.
I tried raspberry shoots, because I had access to them, and they were listed in books. Standard recipe for raw leaves, collect as many as you can, soak overnight, boil for 15-20 min, let cool, strain, add mordant and dye. The left one with alum, the right one with iron. First shade after 20 min, second after an hour, third overnight. I was not very impressed with the result, but still it’s not nothing.
Here is a comparison with chestnut leaves (on the left) and oak leaves (on the right):I would pick chestnut over raspberry any day, and yet if you don’t have one, and do have the other, you might want to give it a try. It can give you a decent yellow with alum after a couple of hours, or if you’re after aged look with that grey with iron, that could also be interesting, especially in combination with other colors.
Made this egg few weeks ago, when sappan wood dye was still fresh. Brown chicken egg, etched with vinegar, then sappan wood. Inspired by Natalie Kit and her brown eggs that I saw at Pysanky Toronto.
The pattern is from Odarka Onyshchuk’s album, I already the same pattern in malva and buckthorn and posted earlier. Here’s the photo of both eggs with this pattern together, who knows, I might make more of these still, love that pattern this year.
Made this egg for someone’s 60th marriage anniversary, based on the traditional design, double yolk goose egg, vinegar etch, gold- coreopsis extract, orange – old sappan wood, then egging etch to white, and backround pink – same sappan wood. The contrast between pink and orange is not clear enough, should have made the background lighter or gone for a dark dye.
Traditional patterns and their surprises, didn’t realize there’s a star at the narrow ends, until I actually made it:
This has become one of the books I use very often, it provides detailed accounts (140 pages) of the dyes made from plants (and lichen) that grow (or can be grown) in North America. It also has basic recipes for different types of dyestuff.As always, one has to keep in mind that not everything that works for fabrics, works the same way, or at all for eggs, so we try things out and see.
Unfortunately, the paperback edition I bought, while it has an expanded section on lichen, does not include the color plates from the older hardcover edition, so I’m adding them here: Continue reading