Woad Leaves Dye

Amelia Hoskins / Dyes, Plant Dye / / 0 Comments / Like this

[This page undergoing new photo uploads. please see old blog temporarily]

Woad is easy to grow.  Buy some seeds, and watch the plants develop over 2 years.

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Spring flowering of 2yr old plant
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Summer seeding of 2yr old plant

Woad Dye Bath Alchemy - 1st Session

Overview - Woad leaves are cut up and soaked before boiling and simmering for an hour. Remove leaves, then dye bath needs soda crystals, before whisking for 10 mins until froth forms. Woad dye bath is ready when there is a pale blue or (in this case) pale green froth. Reheat dye bath to 50 deg. then add spoon of sodium dithionite to remove oxygen. The water goes limey green.  Submerge silk.  Lift after a while to see strength of blue (which shows in oxygen).

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Woad leaves cut up and soaking, simmered until liquid sherry coloured.
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Whisking dye bath with soda crystals
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After dithionite added, immersed silk turns blue in air
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Test dye regularly with litmus papers until best green achieved
  1. Boil woad leaves - until liquid is sherry coloured: it changes quickly, but simmer for an hour.
  2. Add soda crystals - until alkalinity reaches 9-10. Use litmus papers from plant dye suppliers.
  3. Whisk liquid - until froth forms. A tiring 10-15 mins but liquid can also be poured from height from one pan to another making bubbles. (for a whisk break)
  4. Heat dye bath - to 50 deg again. Set aside 20 mins. (use cooking  thermometer)
  5. Add desert spoon sodium dithionite - to remove oxygen.  Add enough until dye bath turns limey green.
  6. Place silk in liquid - carefully without creating air bubbles. Submerge. Leave for 20 mins.  Woad colouring occurs quickly after exposure to air, because the dye bath had the  oxygen removed by sodium dithionite; re-exposure to oxygen turns it blue.
  7. Remove fabric - and rest. Watch it turn blue in air. (mine went turquoise on ahimsa cream silk using pond water)
  8. Rinse out - when colour as dark as will go, hang out to dry.
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Result! Good woad take up in oxygen, but patchy.

This bright turquoise was lost on re-emersing in dye bath! How we learn!

A second session (to be added) produced pale blues as in above image.

[Note: page restructuring - additional detailed dye process images, Session 1 and 2, being resized.]

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