textiles · exploration · misadventure

Bougainvillea Meh


Vibrant purple dye in four jars.Second go at bougainvillea dyeing.


Same procedure as last time: prune, macerate, soak, strain, divide into jars, pop in the yarn.

Pile of white and off-white yarns and cottons in slightly varying shades.

Fresh batch of newly mordanted yarn and cotton.

This time I used more strongly mordanted fibers, made the dye stronger by using more bougainvillea and less water—and had the not so brilliant idea to leave the jars on the back porch during the three hottest days of the year while I was out of town and couldn’t keep my eye on them.

Close up on a jar of scarlet-purple bougainvillea dye with yarn and fabric slowly sinking under the surface, splattered with colorful dye.

My dye jars were beautiful the day we left. Healthy. Pink, even.

bright orange rust-mordanted fibers sink into red bougainvillea dye.

Rust-mordanted fibers sink into red bougainvillea dye.

Sun might help set the color more brilliantly, I thought.

Perhaps the stronger dye will strike the wool better in the hot weather, I thought.


I came home to seven jars of brown murk. No scarlet. No brilliance.

Red dyes from flowers can turn brown easily in heat, which is one reason I was doing these solar in the first place: lower temperatures. But dark dye inside glass jars in full sunlight in hundred-degree weather? Foolhardiness. Not using the old furshelf.

I hung the samples to dry, commiserated with Matthew and his mama, who was visiting at the time, and thought I’d call the blog post Brown is Easy.

Once washed and dried, things were better. The fabrics were a fail, but the yarns had color, actually. Not just brown, but subtle, saturated colors. Pretty. Successful, even. But still not vibrating red.

Seven tiny balls of reddish yarn in varying shades.

Left to right, mordanted with alum/cream of tartar, brass, copper, iron, gelatin, soy, urine (mine!)

Seven tiny balls of reddish yarn in varying shades.Seven tiny balls of reddish yarn in varying shades.

Now. I’m going to sharpen my pruning shears and water that fucking bougainvillea.

7 thoughts on “Bougainvillea Meh

  1. Aw man! Still pretty browns, though!


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