Yellow and Red – or not?

I had a bag of safflower petals that I’d bought by mistake (I was looking to buy some saffron).  These can make a good yellow and surprisingly a red colour too, so I thought I’d give them a chance to be useful. Our supermarkets are providing little net bags for loose fruit and vegetables now.  They are made from recycled plastic and so you can take and reuse them instead of the flimsy single use plastic ones. So one of these seemed a perfect option to hold the petals in the liquid.  I put them in the bag and then covered them with water and left them for about half an hour.  Once they were thoroughly soaked I squeezed and pressed the bag of petals to ensure that as much colour was extracted as possible.  I squeezed out the excess water and kept the petals for later.  The resulting liquid was my yellow dye bath. 

I used the same yarns as last time: non-superwash merino, superwash merino and an alpaca, linen and silk mix.  I prepared these by adding them to a very dilute solution of gentle wool detergent to ensure they were fully wetted and the fibre was open.  It’s important to do this as it allows the dye molecules to penetrate and bond with the fibres.  I added them to the yellow dye bath and slowly brought the liquid to a simmer and then left it simmering for about 30 minutes.  I allowed the liquid to cool and then removed and rinsed them. 

Results from Safflower yellow dye

Yarns are clockwise from the top:

  • superwash merino, double knit
  • non-superwash merino 4ply,
  • alpaca, silk and linen mix, 4 ply.

I’m really quite pleased with the result.  I love the alpaca mix the best.  Apparently this way of dyeing doesn’t produce a very colour fast dye so I will need to experiment a bit more with a mordant, (now that my alum has arrived) and of course with other fibres.  


The red wasn’t so successful though.  To create this, you have to take the petals used above and re-immerse them in water and then add enough washing soda to lift the pH to 11.  This is quite a high alkaline solution and as my universal indicator strips haven’t arrived, so once more I had to guess – easy to imagine the outcome here!  So as per the instructions, the petals turned a lovely reddish brown.  I am pretty certain that I simply sloshed too much water over the top of them so there wasn’t enough of them to turn the volume of water the right colour.  After an hour I squeezed out the petals and added more vinegar to bring the pH back to pH 6 – slightly acid.  Again, as I didn’t have any indicator strips, I added it till the red looked about right. You can see a problem here can’t you?  I once again added some little swirls of yarn to the dye bath over night.  This was a no result essentially.  The alpaca mix yarn did turn a slight shade of coral but not enough to write home about!  

Lesson to be learned – yet again.  Don’t be slap dash with the liquids and watch the pH carefully.  In fact I won’t even attempt another dye session till my indicator strips arrive in the post!

Next up – more blue and purple in larger quantities and possibly some avocado skins and stones – it’s exciting!

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