Alkanet (Alkanna tinctoria) Ossentongwortel (NL)
Dyes: with alum violet tones and with Iron sulphate grey-blue tones
Mordant dye and direct dyeing
Alkanet, also called Dyer’s Alkanet, is found in Southern Europe, among other places. The dye alkannin is extracted from the roots of this dye plant.
If you want to dye with Alkanet, it is important to know that this dye does not dissolve (well) in water. By soaking the Alkanet in alcohol (96%) or methylated spirits, the red dye is released. When you have done this, you can add the extract to your dye bath and start painting with it.
… is also called Dyer’s Alkanet.
… is also used to colour cosmetic products, oil, alcohol and wood.
… was also used to treat itching and burns.
This is one of the natural dye products described in the book Eco-verf by Anja Schrik.
Basic recipe for 100 grams of wool, silk or cotton to dye purple
– 50 grams of Dyer’s Alkanet
– 15 grams of alum
– 2 grams of tartaric acid
– 50 ml alcohol 96%
– electric cooker or cooker
– 2 old (cast iron) pans
– apron, gloves
– laundry bag or cheesecloth
– (glass) pots, buckets or containers
– 1 cup of vinegar
– 2 cups household soda crystals (if you are going to dye cotton)
Step 1: Wash (only if you are dyeing cotton, skip step 1 if you are dyeing wool or silk)
Fill a bucket with plenty of water and 2 cups of household soda and leave your cotton there for 24 hours. Rinse well the next day.
Prepare in advance: Dyer’s Alkanet dissolves in alcohol. Water will carry it but will not remove the dye. Soak the Dyer’s Alkanet in 50 ml of 96% alcohol for 2-3 days. Make sure that you put it in a sealable jar because alcohol evaporates.
Step 2: Mordanting
Dissolve the alum and tartaric acid in a jar with hot water. Put 3-5 litres of water in a pan and add the mixture of alum and tartaric acid. Soak the wool, silk or cotton in a bucket of water and when completely soaked, add them to the mordant pan. Bring the temperature to 80 degrees (not hotter). Let this simmer for over an hour. Then let the fibres cool slowly in the mordant bath. You can leave this overnight or get started right away.
Step 3: Dyeing
Pour the extract from the Dyer’s Alkanet through a laundry bag into the dye pot and fill it with 3-5 litres of water. Put your wash bag with Dyer’s Alkanet into the dye pot as well.
Bring the dye bath to 60 degrees (not warmer) and leave it to simmer for an hour.
Lower the temperature to 30 degrees (tip to speed up this process: put your pan in the sink with cold water) and add the wool, silk or cotton.
You can leave the Dyer’s Alkanet in the laundry bag in the dye bath during the dyeing process. Make sure that the fibres can ‘swim’. Bring the temperature back up to 60 degrees (not warmer) and let it simmer for an hour.
Let the fibres cool down slowly in the dye bath.
After cooling, leave the fibres in the dye bath for an additional night.
Step 4: Fixation
Rinse the fibres and leave them for one hour in a bucket of water with 1 cup of vinegar. Rinse well again and hang to dry.