Dyeing with Eucalyptus and Ironwood

I’m dyeing some cotton yarns with local eucalyptus bark and fallen leaves from Catalina Fernleaf Ironwood trees. The eucalyptus bark is abundant, but I’ve only found six of the ironwood trees here, all in Kimball Park. They’re surrounded by large bottlebrush plants, and it’s very difficult to gather the fallen leaves from under the trees. Being persistent, I pushed my way through the bottlebrush and bees, scratched up my legs, and managed to get enough leaves for a dye bath. I need to find a better source for these leaves. I’m sure the Parks Department doesn’t appreciate me trampling their carefully maintained landscaping.

I started by soaking the leaves and bark in water for a few days.

Natural dyeing eucalyptus and ironwood

Next they were boiled for two hours, and allowed to soak for another day to extract the color.

Natural dyeing eucalyptus and ironwood

I strained the leaves and bark out of the dyes, then added the yarns to soak and later boil.

Natural dyeing eucalyptus and ironwood

And here are the finished yarns, after washing and drying! They’re lighter than I would like, so I added some baking soda to the leftover dye baths, and I’m going to try soaking them again. The baking soda changes the pH of the dye bath, making it more alkaline. Cotton yarns take color better in an alkaline dye bath.

Natural dyeing eucalyptus and ironwood

Natural dyeing eucalyptus and ironwood

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3 Comments

  1. Wonderful Cassie. Here in Ajijic Brad is using marigold flowers, cochinilla insects, indigo, numerous tree products for his natural dyes….always experimenting and learning from the local masters.

  2. Sounds like fun, Francisco! I’m in the process of removing the grass in my new backyard, and I’m going to put in some dye plants as well as California natives and drought-tolerant plants.

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