Following Up on Purple Carrot Dye

Light-fast? Nah…

Last week, we tried our hand at using purple carrots as dye. As promised, I’d like to share my results. Purple carrots are not a light-fast or substantive dye. This means they don’t produce long-lasting color and the dye doesn’t adhere to fiber without a mordant.

The superwash merino I tried didn’t take the color at all. The silk produced a lovely lavender shade, but did not exhaust the dye. This was a fun use of my carrot scraps from my personal garden, but wouldn’t make my list of useful fiber dyes.

Searching for a Better Purple…

Purples are notoriously tricky in the natural dye world. Most of them, like purple carrots, are fugitive. Berries and flowers rarely produce long-lasting results. Purple cabbage isn’t light-fast and the color is subject to change under different pH conditions.

Historically, certain mollusks were the primary source of substantive purple dyes. This is an unlikely option for most modern dyers, in part because of sustainability practices.

One method that takes experimentation and rarely results in the same shade twice is the overdye method. Fiber or yarn is first dyed blue using woad or indigo and it overdyed using a red like madder.

Where else can you find purples in the natural dye world?


3 comments on “Following Up on Purple Carrot Dye”

  1. Karen M Reply

    Logwood (Haematoxylum campechianum) gives a lovely purple, but I’m not sure it’s available in the US.

    An internet search states, “A native of the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico, today this tree has become naturalised in much of the Caribbean and other parts of the world.”.

  2. Joy Baule Reply

    I had mixed results with purple cabbage and modifiers last summer. I did land on a fairly decent, albeit substantive pale purple. I have also extracted purple shades from the black bean dye method.

  3. Ingrid Reply

    A mushroom expert friend once told me that mushrooms and lichens are sources of purple dye, and I found a lot of references on googling this: “Orchil (also called orcein) is a natural purple dyestuff produced from various lichens, primarily from Roccella tinctoria” (apparently its history as a dye goes back thousands of years in Europe).
    Hapalopilus nidulans (rutilans in Europe and Canada) is a small annual wood rotting polypore on deciduous twigs and branches of birch, beech and oak. H. nidulans will dye a consistent shade of purple but must have the pH raised to 8-9 when the mushroom is first cooking or the color may not develop at all. It is possible to get a good purple from only a few small pieces of dried mushroom or less than a 1:2 ratio of dry mushroom to wool using alum-mordanted wool.

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