Natural dyes – Red amaranth

I have some red amaranth growing in my garden, it self seeds all over the place and the chooks love it. In my current state of natural dye obsession, I saw the colour of the seed heads and thought it must be useful as a dye. So I pulled one up and embarked upon another dye based adventure.

I found a couple of interesting clips and blog posts to get me started: Solar dye with Red amaranth and Vinegar extraction, then I went off on my own tangent (as usual).

I pulled up one plant and broke it into pieces. The leaves and seed heads made their way into a large coffee pot as I wanted to try solar dye techniques. Having read that amaranth is very sensitive to temperature and knowing my habits when it comes to wandering away from stoves, I thought it best to leave the sun with the supervision of the dye bath.

For this attempt I decided to go with plain water (I will probably try with vinegar extraction too at some point) so I filled the jar up to the top and left it in the sun for a full day.

After work the next day I could already see the red colour starting to leach out. So exciting!!

Of course I got impatient and decided to add the yarn to the dye bath before it had all extracted, thinking that it would do two jobs at once.

I quickly copper mordanted a skein of yarn (the same homespun from Eli I have been using all along) and popped it into the jar in one of my handy paint bags (well, squished it in really).

After a week of sitting in the sun (and the rain), all the dye had been taken up, but the yarn looked alarmingly beige. All the red had leached out of the leaves and gone somewhere, but maybe not into the 4aszxrt4fyarn.

Before rinsing the yarn I could see green with hints of pink.

After rinsing, well the yarn is a really pretty green with splotches of darker green. I have used the yarn I dyed with Johnson grass seed heads as a contrast to show just how much green there is in it. I do like the colour, but I am very surprised that such a dark pink dye bath made green???

I will try to extract the pink colours with vinegar next time. I think that solar dyeing is here to stay though. It is simple, flexible and doesn’t use any gas. It doesn’t hurt that the washing up is minimal too.

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