catchup: plant dyes

First dye experiment: black bean soaking water. I used two pounds of black beans from the local Sprouts, soaked them overnight in just tap water, and then poured off the water and let the yarn soak in that for about three weeks on the front porch. The beans themselves got cooked and pitched into the freezer.

I didn’t get nearly as much scum as I expected– just a little on the top– and no mold or stankyness. I suspect that the jar’s getting our strong afternoon sun every day may have heated it up just enough to retard growth, but not enough to change the color.

I used two skeins each of three mordants, and gave one skein of each mordant a five-minute vinegar soak afterwards.

Starting at the top:
No mordant.
No mordant, vinegar dip.
Alum mordant.
Alum mordant, vinegar dip.
Copper mordant.
Copper mordant, vinegar dip.

It occurred to me afterwards that I should have put four skeins of each in, so I could test two of each washfastness. Oh well; I can always untwist these and cut them in half.

Next, my copper jars.

After a month-plus long soak outside on the front porch, the jars looked like this. Hardly any change in the penny jar, and the copper-coated steel scrubbies rusted. Dumped both of them, decided to try again with vinegar and ammonia.

Center jar: 2 cups ammonia, 1 cup water. Right jar: 3 cups vinegar.

Both jars were started on July 2nd; this picture was taken on the fourth. The leftmost jar is avocado pits and peels soaking in boiling water.

The ammonia jar now looks black, and I’m not sure if it’s because it’s highly concentrated, because they were old “dirty” pennies (even though I tried to wash the actual dirt off as much as possible), or because I didn’t manage to get all of the rust out of the jar. I suspect a little of all three.

No entry is complete without a picture of the cat. I meant for this rug to go on the wall, but while I was measuring the stick to hang it, Toby decided it needed more black.



  1. Beth

    You show that experimenting can be fun. My favorite color is the black bean with vinegar only. And being owned by a black cat myself, I love the picture of Toby.

  2. Graydon

    I really liked the 2 alum skeins.

    What was the mean temperature of the water in the sun out there? Back here it would be in the 90’s during the day with the nights in the 70’s. I expect your nights would be colder. I wonder if either of those factors would make a difference in color?

    • mia

      I don’t know what the water temp was. We had some days up to the mid-90s and also some nights that were down in the 40s, and the jars did get the afternoon sun which can be pretty strong here. Black bean dye will change color and go brownish if it gets too hot, so I don’t think these ever broke a simmer. They definitely didn’t boil.


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