Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Gothic Gardening Potpourri

Natural Black Dye for Hair and Clothing
Herbal Black Hair Dye
Here are two recipes I found in World of Herbs, by Lesley Bremness, which are natural formulations for darkening hair. I haven't tried these, so I can't vouch for their effectiveness or safety. I also suspect that these would only be useful if your hair is fairly dark anyway....

Dark Hair Rinse
For a gentle dark hair rinse, use a strong decoction of:
sage leaves
sage with rosemary leaves
sage and dried raspberry leaves
To make a decoction, take one ounce of the herb (chopped) and boil with a pint of water. After being brought to a boil, simmer for thirty minutes--the liquid should be halved. If more than half is evaporated, add enough water so the volume is one-half pint. Cool and then strain. The decoction should be stored in the refrigerator and used within three days.

Black Hair Dye
With a mortar and pestle, crush a handful of green outer shells of unripe walnuts. Leaves can also be added. After crushing, place in a small bowl, add a pinch of salt, cover with water, and soak for three days. After soaking, add three cups of water, bring to a boil, and simmer for five hours. Make sure that all the liquid doesn't boil away--add more water if necessary. Strain the mixture, and if the liquid is more than one cup, reduce by boiling. Cool this to body temperature. Pour the liquid through clean hair, catching it in a bowl. Keep repeating the rinse until the color fades from the liquid. Wear gloves while doing this; it will stain your hands. Pat the hair dry with an old towel, or a dark one, since the dye will also stain the towel. The color from this walnut is cumulative, so the more the rinse is used, the darker the hair will get.
That's it--Good Luck! Let me know if you use these recipes and have success with them.

Natural Black Clothing Dye
This isn't intended as a complete How-To on herbal dyeing. If you are serious about learning to dye wool and cotton, I suggest you get a book; there are lots of them out there. One of them that I found particularly helpful was Nature's Colors: Dyes from Plants by Ida Grae. However, these recipes are intended to give you some idea of the possibilities out there for natural dyes. And, of course, there is always the Dye-It-Black- FAQ, which discusses commercially available dyes.

Note: Mordants "fix" the color on the fiber, making it permanent (hopefully!). It also often makes the color richer or lightens or darkens it. When trying to dye fibers black, iron is the most common mordant.

Black Walnut Dye:
This dye is appropriate for wool fibers. Nuts are collected while the hulls are still green, remove the hulls (pound them with a hammer against a flat stone) cover them with water, store them in a dark place until ready to use. T o prepare the dye, take 6 quarts of hulls and soak overnight, then boil for hours. Strain. Dye the wool with indigo first to get a dark blue (of course, dyeing with indigo is a lesson unto itself). Rinse the wool thoroughly, then put it into the walnut dy e bath. Add a handful of sumac berries and simmer for an hour, then leave in the dyebath overnight. If it's not dark enough, add some more walnut dye and a pinch of copperas (iron mordant or ferrous sulfate). Heat it to boiling and simmer until the color is right. Rinse thoroughly and dry in the shade.

Black Tea Dye:
Thea sinensis, can be used to dye almost any natural fiber, including wool, silk, cotton, jute, or linen. For three ounces of fiber, use 1 1/2 ounces of tea. Soak tea in boiling water for several hours, then cool and add th e fiber. Simmer for thirty minutes, stirring occasionally. Cool overnight in the dyebath. Add the tea mixture (not the fiber) to an iron pot the next day and add 2 cups of vinegar. Simmer for 1 hour, then cool and add the fiber. Make sure the water still covers the fiber. Simmer for thirty minutes again, stirring often. Cool overnight in the dyebath again, then rinse and dry in the shade. This color has good washfastness.

Logwood Dye:
Haematoxylon spp., found in Mexico and Honduras, is a cheap and effective black dye. It may still be being used commercially for dyeing silk and nylon. Use four ounces of logwood chips for ounces for 8 ounces of cotton. Cove r the chips with water and soak several hours. Stir in 1/4 ounce ferrous sulfate (dissolved in one cup hot water) and 1/2 ounce Cream of Tartar (also dissolved in one cup hot water). Add the cotton and slowly heat to 122 F (50 C) for fifteen minutes. Then take the cotton out, expose it to the air for a few minutes, rinse it, and dry in the shade.
There are lots of other recipes for natural black dyes, including yellow flag iris, pomegranates, alder, blackberry, bugleweed, sourwood, olives, and silk-tassel bush.

Black Dyes from Around the World
This is but a small sampling of the plants used in different countries for dyeing cloth black. All of the information was taken from Dye plants and Dyeing-A Handbook, by the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.


Persimmon--(Diospyros kaki) with iron mordant to get bluish black.
Walnut--(Juglans sieboldiana) with lime mordant produces red-purple-black
Japanese Sumac--dried red leaves are chopped and boiled. Mordanted with iron, it produces gray black. Dyeing the cloth first with Dyer's Knotweed (Polygonum tinctorium- japanese indigo) will produce true black.
Azalea--(Rhododendron japonicum) leaves are collected in fall. Mordanted with iron, it produces gray-black.

Diospyros ehretioides--fruit (a persimmon relative)
Elipta alba--leaves
Harrisonia perforata--fruit
Piper methysticum--root (kava)
Terminalia bellerica--fruit (myrobalan)

Sapium sebiferum--leaves (Chinese tallow-tree)
Psidium guajava--fruit and leaves (guava)

Fraxinus excelsior produces an excellent blue-black, but is rare and only in the mountains, and is sometimes substituted with F. ornus, the flowering ash.

Prunus domestica--bark (plum)
F.ornus, Alnus glutinosa--leaves and bark , with iron mordant (flowering ash and alder, respectively)

Meadowsweet roots-(Filipendula ulmaria) collect roots in July, wash and boil, strain. Boil wool in the dye until proper color.
Waterlily rhizomes-(Nympaea alba) clean roots, then pound until soft. Boil and strain. Put wool in and boil until dark brown, then add copperas and boil until black.
Dock roots-(Rumex crispus) wash roots, boil for 2 hours. Add chrome, boil wool for half an hour.
Oak-(Quercus robur) use bark and acorns
Iris-(Iris psuedacorus) rhizomes
Black Silk Reviver
We all know goths dress in the most sensuous of materials, including silk. So for all those black silk poet shirts, here's another quick recipe from World of Herbs by Leslie Bremness.

This is a natural rinse which will help keep black silk looking black. Boil ivy leaves, then mash until the water is dark. Strain the solution. Use this as a rinse for black silk items. (This is not a dye.)

And now that you have the black hair and black clothes, you need the pale skin.

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