Dyeing with Perilla

I’ve been bitten by the dyeing bug. This time I wanted to dye using Perilla (Perilla frutescens), a volunteer in our yard.

Perilla

Perilla

Perilla frutescens, a member of the mint family, is a purple and green annual. It has lots of names, but is pretty much regarded as a weed. I had heard perilla was used in Japanese cooking. The fresh leaves are used in salads and in wrapping for dishes including sushi. The leaves are also used to color and flavor pickled plums. I’ve just read now that it’s great as a bug repellent! More about this interesting plant here.

But I want to dye fabric with it. So let’s get started!

First you need to “scour” the cotton fabric before mordanting by boiling it for 45 minutes in water with a handful of washing soda and small amount of liquid detergent. Rinse that well.

Scouring the fabric

Getting ready to scour the fabric

The next step is mordanting. This helps to join the fiber and dye to set the color permanently. You can read more about mordanting here. I used alum and washing soda, both easily purchased at the local grocery store. After leaving the fabric in this solution overnight, I rinsed it well before the fun began!

The following day I gathered the plant, tore the leaves, and put them in the dye pot.

Adding perrela to the dye pot.

Adding perilla to the dye pot.

Next I added twice as much water as plant material to the pot, bringing this to a boil and then simmering for an hour.

Adding water to Perilla

Adding water to Perilla

Then we’re ready to dye. You can strain the leaves out, but I left them in – just easier.

The fabric is then added fabric to dye bath. The dye water looked kind of reddish so I was quite excited to see my fabric, really hoping for a rose color.

Fabric in dye bath

Fabric in dye bath

I wanted the strongest shade possible so I covered the dye bath and let it set overnight.

The next morning I opened up the pot and looked in…

Dye pot

Dye pot

and it was GREEN!

I rinsed it out and here are the final pieces.

Finished perilla fabric

Finished perilla fabric

You will notice that it didn’t dye solid. However, I liked the uneven color and after getting over the shock of no rose tones, I think the green is really pretty.

I knew that natural dyeing would not result in bright colors, but I wanted to try it. I’m happy with the results, but not sure I’ll try this again. But then again, I’ve been known to change my mind.

Have you dyed with plants? I’d love to hear your experience. Thanks for dropping by.

 

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