Aiming for Black

black dyes dye experiment logwood dyes natural dyes plant dyes

This spring I tried my first attempt at achieving black cotton with natural dyes. Coaxing the fabric to absorb layer after layer of colors was a very fun experiment and is just the beginning of a journey into richer, darker hues. 

In the first picture I have the same fabric, undergoing the same dye process, with the darker cotton simply soaked in the dye bath longer by 2 or 3 weeks. I found an article on that gives a detailed recipe for a European black dye that includes iron, tannin, and logwood. 

There is a shimmering quality to the fabric that is very beautiful and gives off the luster of a silk cloth. The second image above includes a swatch of chemical or artificial black dyed fabric, really showing off the purple hues of the logwood dye next to it. 

The next steps that the darker fabric will undergo is a bath of madder root, followed by weld. Layering pigment upon pigment to achieve a darker hue is the traditional method of achieving blacks, as natural blacks, (and perhaps all black pigments?) have hints of their cool and warm hued origins. 

Logwood dye is extracted from a tree’s bark and wood chips. It is native to central America and according to wikipedia “Logwood also played an important role in the lives of 17th-century buccaneers and into the Golden Age of Piracy. Spain claimed all of Central and South America as its sovereign territory through the 17th and 18th centuries; despite this, English, Dutch, and French sailors recognized the value of logwood and set up camps to cut and collect the trees for shipment back to Europe. Spain periodically sent privateers to capture the logwood cutters – for example, Juan Corso's 1680 cruise – sometimes in retaliation for buccaneer raids on Spanish cities”logwood and iron dyed cotton fabric in a first attempt at a black fabric recipe

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