Saturday, 29 November 2014

Natural Dyeing, Kidney Beans.

This doesn't exactly qualify as a 'colour of Northern Ireland' although possibly kidney beans could grow here, I don't know. I never grew them so I couldn't tell you.  Possibly they might take a greenhouse to cultivate as it never gets very warm here. But after 2 attempts at a very small trial run of a greenhouse I have given up. Although it was equipped with extra clips and double sheets of polycarbonate around the sides, with the addition of a wind-break.  Just in case you don't believe me here's a quick video clip of it blowing down for the second and final time in a 70 mph wind last Winter.

Thankfully now replaced with a PLASTIC low-to-the-ground poly-tunnel arrangement, which is still far.

But I digress. Back to the kidney beans. After soaking 500grams of the beans overnight, then simmering for an hour for our chilli dish, I couldn't bring myself to just throw away the lovely pink water, so I popped in 2oz of pre-mordanted (Alum and Cream of Tartar) wool and simmered an hour. Towards the end I could see that although the dye bath had a lot of colour in it, the wool was not taking that up. So I added a small 'glug' of ammonia, soak a few minutes, and then removed the wool.

This, once again on a very dull day, does not show the colour brilliantly, but then it's not exactly a brilliant colour. If you want brilliance you need to go to the Equator and boil up insects. Anyway back here in Northern Ireland, and this all proves that kidney beans will give a pink hue, but in this case only a very pastel look. I quite like it, but a little more depth would have been very acceptable just so that people wouldn't be left wondering if I did this on purpose, or if it was accidently left in the washing machine with the red football shorts.  Photographed next to white fleece so you can see it is actually a sort-of-pink.
Watch this space...


  1. I like it....I know what you mean about the mistake thing..but it's a hard to come by natural colour and would work great for the Nordic flesh tone in my felted puppets. Thanks for the tip!

  2. You could try doubling the weight of dye-stuff for a deeper shade. I just tried to achieve pink with woad seed and it was very disappointing. But that is the fun thing about natural dyes, you never know what you will get. Sometimes it's a great surprise colour!

  3. Indeed. I just mixed goldenrod with black bean and got green!

  4. However, I experimented with the woad plant after being frustrated by the process to make blue. If you cook up woad, strain and add the fibre, simmer and then add vinegar -- voila...a deep rich plum colour.