Overdyeing with logwood

I’ve been intending to try overdyeing at some point, and decided to have a crack at it with one of my favourite dyes: logwood. I’ve previously found that a small amount of logwood goes a long way, and I expect to get more than this out of the dyebath. For the moment, this is what I’ve achieved:Overdyeing with logwood




From top to bottom:

  • Silk dupion, dyed first with chlorophyll
  • Cotton lawn, dyed first with chlorophyll
  • Lightweight linen, dyed first with brown onion skins
  • Silk dupion, mordanted with rhubarb leaves to produce a strong yellow ochre
  • Silk noil, not previously dyed
  • Silk habotai, dyed first with madder
  • Wool, dyed first with brown onion skins
  • Silk velvet, mordanted with rhubarb leaves

As you see, I’ve got a wonderful range of grungy shades out of this exercise, and I’m looking forward to trying some more combinations.

I also dyed a few threads and pieces of wool. I find that I use up the threads very quickly and never seem to have enough. I should probably dye just threads for a few batches to lay in a supply. The second photo shows some of the threads. The yellowish-brownish piece of wool on the right hand side was mordanted with rhubarb leaves, but otherwise these are not overdyed threads. Logwood threads

The scope for this type of experimentation is infinite. You could overdye several times, and try out all sorts of colour combinations. The more I do this, the more I realise there is to know about dyeing. Watch this space for future experiments in colour….

Dyeing – keeping records

When I started experimenting with natural dyes I told myself sternly that I must keep proper records of what I was doing – otherwise I’d get in a hopeless muddle and if I got a colour I liked I wouldn’t be able to reproduce. So I set up some records and I’m pleased, and slightly surprised, to be able to tell you that I’ve kept them up to date carefully and consistently. The thing is, I actually quite enjoy writing up what I’m doing. It reminds me of chemistry experiments at school. I was hopeless at chemistry – never had the remotest clue what was going on – but maybe that’s just because I wasn’t interested in what they were telling us. When it comes to dyeing, which is very much the same thing as chemistry experiments, I’m completely absorbed.

So, what are my records like? Well, first, every time I do anything related to dyeing, I write it up in some detail in a sketchbook – see photo. Natural dyeing record

This is a page selected at random, but it’s pretty typical of what I write. I find I have to do this straight away, pretty much as I’m dunking stuff into the dyepot because otherwise I forget almost instantly what I’ve done.

The next stage is recording the results in another book – this time one that’s long and thin. I glue (fabric) or tie (threads) samples of the finished results into the book, in date order.

Here’s a photo of the closed book, and next, a photo of a page of it:Record of natural dyeing results

Natural dyeing results book





I make sure I date every page, so that I have a cross reference back to the first book. Is this completely over the top? Well, maybe it’s me being obsessive, but I don’t think so. I find it very useful to be able to go back and read about exactly what I did to produce a particular hue or tone.

Finally, (what? there’s more? is the woman mad?) I staple a little piece of paper to each piece of fabric, and write the description on the thread spool, including the dye name, immersion number (useful if you use the same dye bath several times to produce successively paler tones) and date. Here’s a photo of some of the results of my experiments in logwood:Logwood labelling example

So, maybe it is all a bit over the top, but I find it very helpful indeed, especially at this stage where I’m learning new things about dyeing all the time.

What to do with all this naturally-dyed fabric?

Yes, well, I have accumulated rather a lot of it. I’ve given some away to a couple of stitching friends, but I still have lots left. The problem is that dyeing fabric is, on the whole, a lot quicker than making things. The first natural dyeing I did was at a one-day workshop run by Claire Wellesley-Smith who blogs as Clarabella early in 2013. I took away some pieces of dyed fabric and was just thrilled to ribbons with them. The first thing I made was this pincushion:Pincushion made of naturally dyed fabrics

It’s a cube made of 1cm square fabric pieces, dyed with indigo, logwood, madder and something I forget that produced that rather attractive olive green. I made this using the English paper piecing method which was a bit fiddly but still nice to do.

I’m currently working on a quilting project using some of the naturally-dyed fabric that I’ve produced since I went to Claire’s workshop. I’ll blog about this project once I’ve finished it.

Isn’t logwood amazing?

Recently I’ve been doing a lot of dyeing with logwood.

So what is logwood? According to the Wild Colours website, logwood is a tree originally found in the forests of Central America. Obviously it’s not something you can easily grow in your back garden (well, not here in rural Lancashire) so the best way to buy it is either as a powdered extract or in the form of chips of wood. Logwood gives purples and, if overdyed, can produce blacks.

I tried the extract and found it’s a very strong one. I used about 5 grams of the powdered extract and it just kept on yielding colour, getting progressively weaker, eventually producing some excellent greys.

Some purples and greys from using logwood

This shows some of the big range of colours I obtained by using and reusing the same pot of dye. I dyed various weights and types of silk, linen, cotton and wool.Threads dyed with logwood - shading to grey

And here are some of the thread colours as well. I dyed silk, wool and cotton threads which all yield different colours.

I’ll write some other posts about techniques I use, about mordanting fabrics, the results from different dyes….