Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Photos of Baskets using these Dyes

To see more photos of these materials made into baskets go here:

Cherokee Baskets with these dyes

Friday, December 15, 2006

Cochineal Crimson Recipe

There are a lot of variations for using this particular dye stuff. I just picked the simplest.

Cochineal Basic Recipe:

  1. You will first need to mordant your dye material with first tannin (Tara Powder) and then twice with Alum to get the Crimson Color - letting the material dry between mordant sessions at least a day or two; (ok, I'm not patient, I just mordanted and let it dry 1 day between sessions);

  2. The dye pot is prepared at room temperature with 2 gals of water;

  3. Add 1 cup of salt and 1 to 2 tbs of water softener if necessary;

  4. ADD 1/4 cup of the Cochineal dye stuff - Powdered Cochineal; now you may find you want a darker color in which case you would add more dye stuff - I also purchased the whole Cochineal and then used my little coffee grinder to get it into powdered form - worked really well and I got a really nice powder;

  5. Add your mordanted coil of cane;

  6. Bring the entire dye pot to 160 degrees - I brought it to a simmer and then turned it down, I'm not sure what the temperature was; Leave it at this temperature until the color develops, again I left mine at this heat level for about 2 hours - mine is a medium color in the dye pot, so I'm going to leave it in the dye solution again over night to see if it will get darker in color. Nope the color does not get darker and a black residue seems to form when it cools, so taking it out of the dye pot when you remove it from the heat appears to be best. You could probably leave the cane in the dye for longer than 2 hours if it has not reached the color to want by then, however, keep it at a hot temperature.

Now this dye stuff will produce a color anywhere from Scarlet Red to Purple; if the dye stuff gets wet before use, it will only produce purples. Other recipes call for adding at various times, oxalic acid, stannous chloride, stannic chloride for a more scarlet color. Other recipes call for oxalic acid, cream of tartar and tin spirits, stannous chloride and black oak bark. I won't go into how the *spirits* are made, but I suspect you'd need to live in the country with lots of cows around.

If you'd like to try these other recipes you'll need the book: The Art and Craft of Natural Dyeing, Traditional Recipes for Modern Use, by J.N. Liles of the three books I got this one seems to have much better directions in it for the home user. He gives the recipes for cotton and wool as well as silk. He still uses degrees for heat and ozs etc for amounts, so I'm guessing a lot of time on the amounts here, however, he also gives tbs or tsp measurements for smaller amounts. He also gives you a good many variations of materials i.e. if you don't have tannin you can use say 2 oz of Tara Powder, he also tells you where you can purchase some of the other items he uses in his recipes. And he has a number of variations to all his recipes from the simplest to the most complex. His book is available at Amazon or any other online book seller as well.

The photo above was taken just after removing the cane from the dye pot. This seemed to lighten even after leaving it in the dye pot over night, so it might be that you would get a brighter color if you removed it after the dye solution begins to cool or after removing it from the heat. There seems to be a black residue that forms in this dye if it gets cool, so dyeing and removing the cane after a couple of hours appears to work better than if you leave it over night.

I have also added some honeysuckle to the dye pot to see what it will do. The top photo is the Cochineal after it has dryed.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Osage Orange Recipe

Osage Orange Recipe:

  1. Add 1 gal of water to your dye pot;

  2. Add one cup of plain table salt - the salt works as a leveling agent, which gives you a more even dye - remember this is cane I'm dyeing so this may not work on cloth materials;

  3. Add 1 cup of Osage Orange powder/saw dust;

  4. Bring all of this to a boil;

  5. Add 1 more gal of water so you have a 2 gal dye pot;

  6. Boil for 2 hours unless you've let your Osage Orange saw dust soak over night, then boil for 1 hour;

  7. Add 1 coil of cane and boil for an additional 2 hours;

  8. Remove from heat and let soak over night. I did not let this particular batch soak overnight because I was looking for a somewhat light color and this turned dark really quick. I left it in the dye pot for about 4 hours after removing it from the heat. The finished test I took, got much lighter than it appears in the above photo, which is what I wanted.

  9. Always rinse your cane after you remove it from the dye pot.

Now, I had used a tannin or tara powder mordant on this coil of cane prior to adding it to the dye pot. I did not use any alum because I didn't want the dye to turn too yellow, I'm looking for more of a tan color.

Sources also suggest adding a copper modifier towards the end of the dyeing process.

The photo at the top is the cane after it is dry and the photo at the bottom is the cane which has dried some so it's not fresh out of the dye pot. Photo of it dry coming.

This Dye stuff is really easy to use and gives you good color on the cane.

To see this dye in a woven basket - PHOTOS

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Dyeing Notes

Notes on using Natural Dye Stuff:

  1. Some sources say that you can dye any natural material in a cool dye bath as well as heated, however, some dye stuff requires heat to release the dye;
  2. Although a cool dye bath may work, generally heat I think is the better method, since your dye will adhere to the material faster and cane may be different than other materials such as cotton or linen;
  3. I have purchased an Aroma PHP-323 Electric Halogen Range for use in my dyeing; this is a fancy word for *hot plate*; this one however has a really large base and works well with the larger dye pots I use; and it heats and cools down very rapidly;
  4. Most natural dyes are not toxic so although you can dye in your kitchen, it is better to have some sort of ventilation for the area anyway and I don't think I'd be eating any of these whether toxic or not; be sure and wash or rinse your hands after each handling of any of the dye stuffs for safety;
  5. Mordants on the other hand can be toxic, so follow instructions well with those and make sure you have lots of ventilation for them;
  6. Most of the dye materials will have their own unique funky smell as well;
  7. The above halogen range will also work well outside if you prefer to dye out of doors, my preferred place is outside;
  8. Always remember that if you finish a recipe and the color just isn't as dark as you'd like add more dye stuff;
  9. I'm also beginning to think that with any dye stuff you will need at least 1 cup of dye stuff with 2 gals of water at a minimum; anything less than that will not give you a true indication of the dye color when finished; remember your dyed material is going to look dark when wet in the dye pot but as it drys it will get lighter in color.
  10. You should also NOT place a naturally dyed basket in direct sun light, sun light will cause the natural dye to fade very rapidly;
  11. Sources also suggest drying your newly dyed material in the shade rather than direct sun light.
  12. I always add 1 to 2 tbs of water softener to my dye pot since I have hard water whether the recipes state that or not.
  13. When experimenting you may want to dye the cane first and then try your color modifiers, this way you can see what the color change is; you would make your color modifier just like you would a dye pot but wait until after you have dyed your material, then put it in the color modifier solution. The all in one dye pot doesn't give you the benefit of seeing the dyed material and then what the color modifier will do to the color.
  14. Always try a test piece of cane in the color modifier before putting the entire coil of cane in the solution. Don't want to ruin that gorgeous original dye, if the modifier doesn't do what you think it will.
  15. Every dye batch will be a different shade or variation of the color, so be sure and dye enough material for your project, so you will have some consistency in color.

And most important have fun.....:)

Annatto Seed Recipe

This dye material will give you an orange to orange/red color without any mordants or modifiers.

The Recipe:

  1. Add 1 gal of water to your dye pot, 1 or 2 tbs of water softener (I'm using Calgon for this) and 2 tsp of washing soda bring to a boil;
  2. Add another gal of water to the dye pot, so that you will have a 2 gal dye pot;
  3. Add 1/2 cup of Annatto seeds to the dye pot (depending on how dark you want the dye 1 cup might be better - also remember you are first putting these in a nylon stocking before adding them to the dye pot);
  4. Bring the dye pot to a boil and boil for 1 hour;
  5. Add 1 coil of cane and boil for another hour (I washed my cane off before hand, so that it was also wet when added to the dye pot);
  6. Remove from the heat after 1 hour and you can either remove the cane from the dye pot, depending on how dark you want it or leave the cane over night in the dye pot. I left mine in the dye pot over night.

This dye material can also be done in a cool or room temperature dye pot without using heat but you would need to soak the Annatto seeds over night. This particular dye material does not need a mordant, however, sources say that adding a couple of teaspoons of vinegar to the rinse water after dyeing will give you a salmon color. I did not do anything to the cane before putting it into the dye pot except rinse it in a mild (PH) dish soap.

The photo at the bottom is the dyed cane after taking it from the dye pot and is still wet. The photo at the top is the dried cane. This is really a nice color of red/orange. I did not grind the seeds for this batch but next time I will try grinding them before adding them to the dye pot which may yield more color and will try it with 1 cup of Annatto seeds to see what result I get. This however, really looks like Blood Root when dry, amazing.

When grinding seeds or other dye material a small coffee grinder can be used. They are rather inexpensive and can be found at most stores like K-Mart, Wal-Mart or Target. This is a handy gadget for the home dyer.

To see this dye in a woven basket - PHOTOS

Walnut Dye Recipe

The Recipe:

  1. Starting with 1 gal of water in my dye pot and adding 1 tbs of water softener;

  2. I have put 1 cup of Walnut Hull Powder into a stocking and added it to my dye pot;

  3. Bring to a boil for about 1/2 hour;

  4. Add another gal of water and bring to a boil;

  5. Add one coil of commercial cane in this case I've also added a small amount of Honeysuckle as well;

  6. Simmer for 1/2 hour;

  7. Let stand for as long as it takes to get the color you want - I'm probably going to leave this batch at least 3 or 4 days in the dye pot;

  8. At least once during the day I again bring the dye pot to a simmer and then leave it again over night;

  9. I removed the dyed material from the dye pot on the 5th day, you may want to leave it longer if you want a darker color.

I have done this batch a bit different to see how it comes out. I am first going to dye the cane in the Walnut dye and then after it appears to have gotten as dark as I can get it, will add it to an iron solution, the color modifier, to see what result I get.

This can also be done in an all in one dye method and that is usually the preferred method, however, I'm trying to see just exactly how much iron would be required to make it that nice chocolate brown. Or if perhaps adding the dyed cane to an iron solution afterwards would make it darker or not work as well.

Once again this dye recipe comes from Sandra Pallie of Oklahoma, she however, uses the rusty nail method for the iron, where I use the iron crystals. Not many rusty nails in my area...:)

Photo at the bottom above taken on the 5th day of steeping in the dye pot. It's beginning to rain in Sunny Southern Cal so might take awhile for this to dry. The photo at the top is the honeysuckle which was dyed in the same dye pot at the same time as the cane. Neither have had iron added to them and are still wet from the dye pot. The top two photos are of the dried honeysuckle and cane.

The top photos are also after I put it in an iron solution. I just dipped and swished these a couple of times in the iron solution, so as you can see they really came out dark. I used a fraction of the iron that I used in the dye in one method.

I have also discovered another source of making iron solution is steel wool pads. If you add say one pad to a pint or quart of water with some vinegar, you will also get a very nice iron solution for dyes.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Finished Basket using Blackberry Natural Dye

This is the finished basket using blackberry dye. This is the Flowing Water design, I'm going to also make a lid for this one.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Tannin as a Mordant Recipe

There are two types of fibers from what I can gather.

  1. Vegetable fibers, also called cellulose fibers such as cotton - this is the type of fiber that most basketweavers use. So most recipes are given for both cotton and wool, so when choosing take the cotton recipe.
  2. Animal Fibers, also known as protein fibers, such as wool - although I've read that any dye that will work on Wool will also work on Vegetable fibers.

Tannin is usually used on all Vegetable fibers because it helps either the mordant of Alum or any of the others adhere to the fiber better. Tannin can be used as a pre-mordant or alone as a mordant but most of the sources suggest using the Tannin first or also in the all in one dye method for best results on all vegetable fibers.

The earliest and richest source for Tannin was in the Gall Nuts of oak trees. They were produced by insects who would deposit their eggs in small punctures they made on young branches.

Other sources of Tannin were the barks of alder, chestnut and oak, each has a varying percentage of tannin.

Tannic acid is still used in some types of dyeing and medicines.

The recipe:
  1. Dissolve 1/2 ounce (light colors) to 1 1/2 ounces (dark colors) of tannic acid in 4 to 6 gallons of hot water (130 to 170 degrees) in a nonreactive pot (I use a small stainless steel pot). An Iron pot will produce a grey, black or a dull color from the tannin.
  2. Place the fiber in the tannin solution and steep for 8 to 24 hours; Do not heat the bath again; in fact, cotton mordanting occurs well at room temperature, remember cotton is most like the fibers basketweavers use;
  3. Remove, rinse once and dry;
  4. After it has dryed then do your other mordant if desired or place the fiber into the dye pot.

Although Tannic acid is the best tannin source for bright and light colors, it may not be available in which case tannin-bearing plants will work as well.

For 1 ounce of Tannic acid you can use:

  1. 4 ounces dried or 8 ounces fresh sumac leaves and shoots
  2. 2 ounces cutch extract or tara powder
  3. 10 ounces oak galls
  4. 18 ounces myrobalans or
  5. 14 ounces divi-divi (I have no idea what that is....:))

I used the tara powder which is about 50% tannin, I added 1/4 cup to a gal of water and then added 1 coil of cane and leave it sit overnight. Depending on the tan color achieved, it will mordant several coils of cane. Once the color reaches a light tan the Tara Powder has been used, so you will need to make another batch to mordant more cane if you desire.

If you use Tara Powder put it in a nylon stocking to prevent the residue from floating around in your solution.

Many sources will tell you that a pre-mordant to a cellulose fiber will make the dye adhere better to the fiber and prevent fading of the natural colors.

Blackberry The Recipe

Ok, remember that Red Onion Cane, well, this is that cane dyed again with Blackberries. The top photo is the cane dry, bottom is the cane still wet.
This is what I did.
  1. First I soaked the cane in Tara Powder (a source for Tannin) over night, more on this in another post;
  2. I took 18 ozs of Blackberries and while still whole added them to my nylon stocking pouches;
  3. I then smashed the blackberries in the dye pot, so you don't loose any of the juice that comes out from smashing them;
  4. I then added 2 gals of water to the smashed Blackberries in my dye pot;
  5. I left the cane in the dye for 2 days, that was 2 nights and 2 days total and removed them.

When you do not heat the dye pot this is known as the cold method of dyeing and you can do this with some natural materials but not all.

After I removed the cane from the dye pot, I then added some honeysuckle to it, the honeysuckle likewise had been soaked for at least over night in the Tannin solution; I should have enough dye color to also get a nice red color on this, but we will see.

The Tannin Solution is suppose to help the dye from fading as it usually does after several days. On the honeysuckle test I did with the cane, the dye eventually got so light you could no longer even see it. Tannin is suppose to help prevent this. Tannin is what is called a pre-mordant or a mordant; in most sources I have read tannin applied either first or with the dye material is a mordant for vegetable fibers, more on this later as well. Tannin is also used as a pre-mordant for alum on vegetable fibers, you soak your cane in Tannin over night, then soak it in an Alum solution over night, then add it to your dye pot. Takes longer but it is suppose to really help your dye adhere to a vegetable fiber.

Likewise you will notice that in this dye pot I did not add salt. Salt is known as a leveling agent, it makes the dye apply evenly on the fibers, so I will have to try this in my next blackberry dye batch. Now depending on how dark the honeysuckle gets, I will probably also at some point boil the blackberries for about 10 to 15 minutes and see if the fruit will bear any more dye. In some cases, heat will extract more color from the dye stuff and you will get a faster dye than using the cold method. After you boil the dye stuff, you place your cane into the dye pot and let it set at least over night or longer depending on how deep of a color you want. It also appears at some point the fibers just don't accept any more dye.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Note on Dye Stuff

When you are determining the amount of dye stuff to use in your dye pot, it is not the amount of water in the dye pot that determines the strength of the dye. The amount of water in the dye pot does *not* dilute the dye color. The amount of dye stuff is what determines whether the resulting color will be light or dark and the amount of dye material you put in the dye pot to be dyed. Generally you use the same weight of dye stuff that is equal to the material you are dyeing. So 4 oz of cane would require 4 oz of dye material. The dyed material, in our case, cane, will absorb the same amount of dye in 2 gals as in 4 gals of water, but you need to make sure you've added at least 4 oz of dye material. Then depending on how strong you want the color you can either add or subtract dye stuff from the initial amount used. If it is too strong, you might use it to dye another coil of cane in a lighter shade.

Natural dye colors often will not be consistent even when using the same dye stuff. Most natural materials require heat to extract the color. Powered dyed stuff can be mixed into a smooth paste with a little warm water then added to the dye pot and simmer for 1/2 hour. Generally you will need 1/2 the dyed material weight for the dye stuff. So with a 4 oz coil of cane you would need at least 2 oz of the dye powder. This will give you a strong dye pot, which you can then gauge from there whether you wish to add or subtract from that amount.

If you dye in a cool dye pot, then it can take several days to get the color you want. Some dye stuff also may require heat however for best results.

I would say, 2 cups of red onion is not 4 ozs in weight, so next time I'm going to double or triple the amount of red onions skins.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Mordants and Modifiers

I must say this is an extremely interesting subject because if you pre mordant you will get various colors, then add the fibers to the dye bath the colors will dye depending on the type of mordant used and then if you add a color modifier after you dye the same fibers, you will get even more variations of colors. Fibers that are say pre mordant in all five mordants below will yield 5 different colors, then when these fibers are added to say a madder dye bath, you get 5 different colors again, then using the same dyed madder fibers and putting them in 5 different color modifiers you get another 5 different shades. So out of 5 different mordant fibers groups, you would get up to 15 different color variations.

The basic difference between mordant and color modifier is when you apply it to the cane. A mordant is applied before putting the cane in a dye bath. A color modifier is used after you have dyed the cane. If you use the all in one method, they probably become more color modifiers than mordants. Plain table salt or other salts are also considered a mordant, although they would probably not be considered color modifiers. Anything applied to the cane to help the color adhere to the cane would be a mordant and some mordants work better with some dye stuff than others. If the color modifier (mordant) is applied after dyeing then you are more likely to get a change in the original dyed material. Putting your cane in a mordant solution alone prior to dyeing it is said will help the dye *stick to* the cane, if you add it to the dye pot at the same time, the mordant has a tendency to adhere to the dye and leave the cane out of the loop, thus not being quite as affective. I think I really like blood root...you get a really nice good clear or dark color with none of this fuss!!

The major types of Mordants are: Alum, copper, iron, tannin and rhubarb leaf solutions.

The major types of Color Modifiers are: Acid (clear vinegar), Alkaline (washing soda), Copper and Iron. Wood ash if you have a wood stove or fire place. Clear vinegar and ammonia can also be used as modifiers. One or two teaspoons of vinegar makes an acidic modifier and a few drops of ammonia makes an alkaline modifier.

So as you can see both copper and iron depending on when you add it to your fibers will give you a different result.

The mordants help the dye *stick* to the fibers so to speak and if added before you dye the fiber gives you also more control over the coloring process.

For color modifiers: 1 tablespoon of modifier crystals dissolved in 2 pints of boiling water will be enough for several applications because you only use 1 or 2 teaspoons of the modifier solution each time.

You can pre mordant, dye and then use more than one color modifier as well. Put the dyed fibers into one modifier and then put it into another. Sometimes more than one pot or kettle or bowl is necessary, since you need to keep the modifiers separate. The all in one method probably wouldn't work if using more than one mordant or modifier.

Actually it appears that any of the mordants can also be used as color modifiers, if used after the fiber has been dyed and any of the color modifiers can also be used as mordants. Tannin can be used as a dye, as can any of the other mordants, since they will give give a different shade to the original fiber. Tannin produces tans, copper a pale blue, alum a yellow and rhubarb a grayish tan.

All you need do is add 1 to 2 teaspoons of the mordant or color modifiers to a pot of water, 4 to 8 gals, although a gal would work, and stir well, then add your fibers. However, with color modifiers you won't be able to see the change if you add it to your dye pot, so making a modifier solution say with one gallon of water would seem to work as well. Then after you have dyed the cane you can then put it into the color modifier solution. You do not need to leave the cane in these modifiers for very long to see the changes. Just leave it in long enough to get the desired color and in some cases that may not be more than a minute, give or take a few seconds.

For acidic modifiers, most common is clear vinegar, add the dyed fibers and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove the fibers when the color changes, rinse well. You can also do this in a cool solution, just take bit of vinegar say in a bowl, then a sample piece of your cane and dip it into the vinegar. This one will help some reds, as in my red onions. You should however, test any of these on a sample before immersing your entire coil of cane into the solution.

For alkaline modifiers, most common is washing soda (Arm & Hammer Soda) add the dyed fibers, no need to heat, soak them for about 1/2 hour, if the color change is not enough, remove the fibers and add more alkaline modifier and then add the fibers again. Repeat this until the desired color is achieved. Remove the fibers and rinse well. This one likewise can be done in cool water, this will turn towards yellows.

For copper add the fibers and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes until the color changes, remove the fibers and rinse well.

For iron add the fibers and simmer for about 5 minutes, remove fibers and rinse well. (this may not work with walnut - but I am certainly going to give it a try, watch for the results!). I did a couple of samples of iron modifiers and you really need very very little of this to change the color. My water was very light yellow and it still turned one sample grey, this was the cane that had the alum added to the dye pot while dyeing and the other really black, this was the cane that was dyed with red onion. So start with just a very little and if need be add more unless you want black, then a larger amount is needed.

Let's just say, you will probably get different color results with cane or reed than you do with wool. You also may or may not need more dye stuff for cane and reed than you would for wool.

Also remembering that Hamburg cane has already been *chemically treated* to remove the hard outer shell, so by rinsing and washing the cane first in a mild dish soap, this might make a difference as well.

Finished Basket Natural Dyes

This is the finished basket using the dyes below. As you can see, I think the red onion turned out way to light and the beets had too much alum added although it did turn out with a nice yellow and the pomegranate has too much iron in it which turned it quite black.

In the next batch I will try adding just 1/2 tsp of iron or less to the pomegranate but first I might try getting just a nice dark red color and also add less alum to the beets once again starting say with 1/2 tsp and working in more if needed for a more pale yellow and also trying just the beets to see how deed the red becomes.

To see photos of the blood root and walnut dyes in finished baskets click this link: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cherokeebasketweaver/

Friday, November 24, 2006

Red Onion Dyed Cane

This is the results of dyed cane with red onion skins. This looks very similar to the pomegranate dyed cane.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Red Onion Recipe

Red Onion Recipe.
  1. Add 2 gals of water to your dye pot, this time I added a tsp of water softener, we have hard water here in California so the water softener will result in removing some of the water impurities;
  2. Add 4 cups of Red Onion Skins, minimum; the darker you want the color the more onion skins you will need; putting the skins in a nylon to prevent floating dye material in the dye bath;
  3. Add 1 cup of salt, again I use plain table salt;
  4. Bring the mixture to a boil for 1/2 hour;
  5. Add your coil of cane;
  6. Simmer for an additional 1/2 hour;
  7. Remove from heat and let stand overnight.

Remember this method will work for any of the Onion Skins, Red, Yellow or Brown. The long you let it stand the darker the color will be as well. I have found the Brown Onion skins to produce the best color thus far, however, I added more than 2 cups of crushed skins.

With 2 cups of red onion skins, my cane was much too light as seen above. You might also add 1/2 or 1 cup of vinegar to your dye pot or after dyeing you would put the cane into a solution of vinegar to enhance the red color. Not sure this would work on the Brown Onions.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Alum Solution

This is the Alum Solution which you can use to soak your cane in before you add it to the natural dye pot. Although this is referred to in most text as a mordant, it is also a color modifier as you can see from what happened when dyeing beets with Alum added. Some texts will also tell you to treat your material with tannin solution before soaking it in the Alum Solution. The washing soda is added to the Alum Solution to help the material absorb the Alum. Tannin and Alum can both be purchased at most basket shops online as well or through Dharma Trading Company via their online shop.

Depending on how dark you want the dye bath, you can soak the material in Alum more than once but it is suggested you treat the material with tannin first.

Remember in most cases for a really deep and bright color result you will need to apply the alum mordant at least twice. You may also want to test your dye material to make sure the Alum will not modify the color as it did with the beets.

Alum Recipe when using 1 coil of commercial cane:

  1. Treat the material with tannin first; this likewise might give you a different result on the beets since I didn't use tannin in my beet dye pot;
  2. Fill your dye pot with 2 gals of water;
  3. Dissolve your Alum in about a cup of water before adding to the dye pot;
  4. Place 4 tsp of Alum in the boiling water and make sure it is dissolved and add it to the dye pot;
  5. Dissolve 2 tsp of Washing Soda (I used just plain Arm and Hammer Soda) in about a cup of boiling hot water, after it is completely dissolved, add it also to the dye pot (you'll get a lot of bubbles and fizzing when you add this);
  6. Now add the coil of cane to the dye pot;
  7. Bring the dye pot to a boil and let simmer for about 10 minutes and remove from the heat;
  8. Now let the material sit in the dye pot for 8 to 24 hours;
  9. Remove the cane and if you wish to apply another bath don't rinse the cane, just let it drip for awhile to remove the excess liquid and then let it dry over night;
  10. Now re wet the cane and add it to a second Alum Solution bath and repeat the above steps letting it sit in the Alum Solution for another 8 to 24 hours;
  11. Remove from the Alum Solution and before dyeing be sure and rinse it really well; note there is no dye material in this solution, this is just simply to add a mordant prior to dyeing the cane;
  12. Now add them to the dye color of your choice.

The all in one method just adds the dissolved Alum and Soda to the dye pot along with the dye material and cane.

Tannin instructions coming or are already above.

Remember, Alum can also modify your dye color, so you may want to experiment to see what it will do with your natural dye material.

Beet Recipe

I didn't get a photo of this in original form. I used the all in one Dye method for this batch which was probably a mistake, since the resulting color is quite surprising!

  1. Using my enamel dye pot I filled it with 2 gal of water;

  2. Add 4 medium size beets cut up and placed in your nylon stockings; my beets were probably about 3 or 4 inches in diameter, there should be about 1 cup of dye material;

  3. Add 1 cup of salt, plain table salt;

  4. Add 3 tsp of Washing Soda, I used plain Arm and Hammer Soda;

  5. Add 3 tsp of Alum;

  6. Boil your mixture for about 1/2 hour and then add your coil of cane;

  7. Simmer for 1/2 hour and remove from heat;

Depending on how dark you want the material, you will let it sit in the dye pot overnight.

Generally the dye material is first soaked in an Alum solution, this solution is used to help the dye adhere to the dyed material better and it also gives the dye a clear color.

As you know beets are a deep red and when cooked much of that juice is a nice deep red as well and would probably make a really pretty deep red color on commercial cane depending on how long you let the cane sit in the dye and the amount of beets you use. However, since I used the all in one method for this dye batch, I will never know. I think this is one disadvantage to using the all in one method for dyeing, you don't get to see the original dye material in it's natural state.

The dye was originally red from the beets, then turned a nice golden orange and then flipped over into a quite vibrant yellow. This is probably a result of the Alum and/or Soda that was added.

Using just the beets and table salt would probably give you the deep red color only from the beets, which I'll try next time.

The top photo is the cane wet and the bottom is the cane dry, it came out a real nice ecru color. And this from Beets with Alum and Soda added.

I would probably not add the alum or washing soda to this if you want a nice red dye and once again you may want to increase the amount of beets used for dyeing. I also might try a vinegar color modifier to enhance the red.

Pomegranate with Iron added after Dyeing

I added 3 tsps (I would start with just 1/2 tsp of this solution and then add more as needed to get it as dark as you'd like) of the hot Iron Solution to my Pomegranate Dye Pot and brought the entire mixture to another boil. I simmered it for another 1/2 hour and this is the resulting color. So as you can see, Iron is going to make your dyed material a darker color. If you want it lighter, you would use less Iron Solution. This particular photo of the cane is still wet, so it likewise is going to be lighter when it drys.

Looks a lot like my Walnut Dyed Cane and this could probably be used as a substitute for the Walnut.

Iron will always make your dyed material more muted and dark.

Next up is dyeing with beets.

Iron Mordant or Color Modifier

I use the crystals you can purchase at most basket shops or Dharma Trading Co. I also dye one coil of commercial cane at a time, which weights a little over 4 oz., so I round it to 5 oz. when preparing dye materials.

  1. 1/4 cup of water;
  2. Bring the water to a boil;
  3. Add 3 tsps of Iron crystals, stir well to make sure all the crystals have dissolved;
  4. The resulting mixture is a yellowish/brown liquid, just like you find if you were to put rusty nails or other rusty material into a jar of water and let it sit for several days and this indeed is another way to make iron solutions;
  5. I then added 3 tsps of this Iron Solution to my Pomegranate Dye Pot.

Pomegranate Recipe

I use a stainless steel stock pot for dyeing with iron mordants.

  1. Add 2 gals of water to your dye pot;
  2. Add 2 large Pomegranates cut up into small pieces, this can be dried or fresh. I just happened to use a fresh one. I cut the entire fruit up including the skin; put the pieces in a nylon stocking so that you will not need to strain the dye material before putting the cane or other material into the dye;
  3. Add 1 cup of salt. I use plain table salt;
  4. Now heat the entire mixture and boil it for at least 1 hour;
  5. After 1 hour add the cane and simmer for 1/2 hour;
  6. After 1/2 hour remove from heat and let stand over night.

The resulting color is shown in the photo above. Alum or Iron can also be added. Alum is usually added before dyeing but the Iron is considered a color modifier and is added after dyeing. You can mix these right into the dye pot all at the same time or you can put your cane into an Alum mixture before adding the cane to the dye pot. I am using Iron as a color modifier so I have dyed the cane using just the pomegranate and then added the Iron after I let it sit overnight because I want to see how the color is changed.

Judging from the color results I would likewise use more than 1 pomegranate for this, probably 2 at minimum and 4 for a nice dark color.


This is the ordinary Pomegranate you find in the grocery if you live in an urban area. I was indeed amazed at the color that resulted thus far. Although this is very red and the juice is red, the resulting colors are more brown in nature.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Blood Root the Recipe

The photos above are of commercial cane dyed with bloodroot. These instructions are from Sandra Pallie a citizen of the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma and member of the Cherokee Artists Association. This is as she instructed me:

What you need:

  1. 2 gals. of water
  2. 1 cup of cut blood root
  3. 1 cup of plain table salt to set the dye
  4. 1 coil of commercial cane
  5. Enamel Stock Pot (commonly called your dye pot)
  6. Nylon stockings either panty hose or knee highs

Cut the blood root into pieces and place in a nylon stocking, this eliminates the need to strain your dye bath and keeps the natural material from cluttering the dye bath up.

Combine the water, blood root and salt in your dye pot and boil it for about 10 minutes. Then add your cane (or other natural material) continue to boil for a few more minutes. Remove from the heat and set it aside for 1 to 2 hours.

Now check your cane by taking a small piece out of the dye pot to check the color. This is probably the most important part of the process, since it is this checking that will show you the color you have obtained. Remember when wet the cane color will look dark, so if you let the cane dry, you will get a better idea of what the color will be when you remove it. If the color is too light, you can at this point add more bloodroot boil the mixture for another 10 minutes and again let the mixture set for an additional period of time. The length of the time you leave the cane in the dye pot depends on the color you want, darker takes longer than lighter and will require more dye material. Your color will be anywhere from a pale yellow to a dark burnt orange.

Adding alum to the dye bath will turn the blood root to a more red-orange. So it just depends on what color you want and the best way to achieve the desired color is to take the basics and experiment. Alum is considered a mordant and there are likewise other mordants you can experiment with to see if and how it will change the color.

Once you have finished or gotten to the desired color, you can put the remaining dye bath into a container and freeze it for future use. It will last for about a year. Any remaining roots you have you should also be put in the freezer for future use.

Mike Dart, also a citizen of the Cherokee Nation and a member of the Cherokee Artists Association, brings his dye to a boil and then simmers it for about 1/2 hour, so with every basket weaver who uses the natural dyes, the process becomes one of personal preference.

I'm new at this so, I'm still experimenting.

The cane dyed in the photos above, was made with 1 gal of water and one cup of blood root, however, 2 cups of blood root would have given me a darker color and 2 gals of water would have given me a more consistent color since the cane could have circulated in the water better. Since this was my first time trying this, the color came out good but could have been darker. I also simmered my dye bath with the cane for about a 1/2 hour, then set is aside for a short time and simmered it again. I repeated this process for several hours however, Sandra tells me it should not take more than 2 hours to reach the desired dark color. If by that time it has not gotten dark enough, then you would need to add more blood root and repeat the boiling process again.

I did not use the alum mordant since I was looking for a color which would match that used by Eva Wolfe in her baskets. Her bloodroot is darker than mine but it appears she likewise did not use any type of mordant in her dye for at least some of her baskets.

This same dye method will work on any natural material including woods splits, honeysuckle etc and reed used in Cherokee basketweaving as well. You will of course need to vary the recipe depending on the amount of material you are dyeing.

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Saturday, August 19, 2006

Other Dye Materials

Well if it grows in the wild and is either small enough to fit in a dye pot or can be cut small enough to fit in a dye pot, it can probably be used to dye cane for baskets.

Other examples of natural dye material:

  • Red onion mentioned earlier;
  • Spinach;
  • Beets;
  • Red cabbage;
  • Leaf of the River Cane plant;
  • All types of berries, raspberry, blueberry (dyeing with berries is somewhat different than with say Red onion);
  • All types of flowers, leaves, bark and roots

Dyes used by the early pioneers:


So look around you and see what is available!

Yellow Onion Skins - Grey/Yellow

I use Hamburg/Bleached commercial cane for my baskets. The bleached cane comes very white, so I find, to restore it to it's near natural color, Yellow Onion Skins will restore some color to it. Just enough color to reduce the white effect of the bleached cane color.

Here are some interesting sites about Yellow Onion skins and how they were used:



It is the outer skin of the onion that is used. Red Onions likewise will produce a nice mauve color which is used for dye.

Black Walnut - the tree & fruit

The Tree:


This above site has some good information on the black walnut tree. It is the hull of the Black Walnut fruit (nut) that is most often used in Cherokee dyes. This was a dye used by ancient Cherokee for dyeing baskets.

Modernly there is available Walnut Powder which is used in Cherokee dyes. This is a *crushed* powder made from the Walnut Hull and can be purchased at most basketry shops.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Blood Root - the plant

This is what the Blood root plant looks like above the ground. The root system below the ground it what is used in dyes. These roots are long tubular roots. The nuts lying among the plants in this photo are acorns, not part of the Blood root plant. The little white flowers are those of the Blood root and it blooms in the spring of the year. Although some sites call bloodroot extremely poisonous, for dye purposes, I don't think you're in any danger, but I don't think I'd say drink a glass of it...:) Just rinse your hands well when you're using it.

More scientific info on the Blood root:

The last link gives you info on medicinal uses of Blood root, apparently the effectiveness of Blood root used in this manner is controversial.

The tools

This is a list of the tools you need for using natural dyes:

  1. An enamel dye pot - I use both the enamel and stainless steel dye pots - these are large stock pots that can be purchased in a variety of sizes from K-Mart or Wal-Mart - some people use one dye pot exclusively for the Walnut dye since it requires an Iron Mordant;
  2. Nylons - either panyhose or knee highs - I've found the knee highs work really well and will hold at least 1 cup of dye material leaving plenty of room to tie a knot at the top - this prevents your dye material from getting in the dye bath and eliminates straining the dye bath to remove the dye material;
  3. Measuring cups in various sizes;
  4. Measuring spoons in various sizes;
  5. Wooden spoons in various sizes - some folks use a set exclusively for Walnut dye
  6. Natural Dye material - Bloodroot, yellow onion skins, Walnut Hulls or Powder, these are the main materials I am presently using; any natural growing material has the potential of producing a natural dye; barks and berries are frequently used as well;
  7. Ordinary table salt;
  8. Water softener, if you have hard water in your area
  9. Some coils of commercial cane - these instructions will be for 2.5mm to 3.0mm of commercial cane, which weight about 1/2 pound each.


I am going to post info here on natural dyes and how to use them with commercial cane at present. Any dye recipe that works with wool will also work with cane or reed. You will see a lot of dye recipes on the web for wool. I have learned the dye process from Sandra Pallie, a member of the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma and member of the Cherokee Artists Association in Oklahoma, with input from Mike Dart and his natural dye process. Listed here are the dyes that were most often used by the Cherokee in the Southeast, which were blood root and black walnut.

I am learning that probably the best dye recipes you find in books are the recipes for Cotton or Linen, if a version is given for those two materials, however, the recipes for wool will also work. I always mordant with Tara Powder first, not so much with Alum, unless it is needed for the color I want, since Alum has a tendency to turn colors yellow. When you're experimenting, rather than the all in one dye method, you might dye your material and then try putting the dyed material into a color modifier solution when you're done. This way you can see how the modifier changes the color. Iron will always *sadden* your colors, Alum is suppose to brighten your colors, but it seems to yellow the colors I've tried thus far. Try a test piece in your color modifier before you put the entire coil of cane in it.

I am also not a chemist, however, I've found in most sources the person writing the book apparently is very chemistry oriented so gives most of the recipes with weights and measures you'd probably find in a chemistry lab. Most commercial dye stuff comes in 2, 4, 6 or 8 oz sizes so that takes some of the guess work out of the measuring. Most recipes also are for 1 lb of material, commercial cane is usually 1/2 lb or little over, so in some cases you need to cut the recipes in half. However, not to worry, if you don't use enough dye stuff, you can always add more before taking your cane out of the dye bath. So this isn't always a precious process.