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Naturally Dyeing with Sappanwood/Brazilwood powder

Updated: Oct 10, 2020

Sappanwood otherwise known as Brazilwood or Brezil wood is from the bark of the tree Caesalpinia sappan, and is widely used as a natural dye in many consumer products. Many of us don't realise that this simple tree provides (with some experimentation), a wealth of nice reds ranging from pinks through to crimson. The naturally occurring red dye in Sappanwood/Brazilwood is known as brazilin which is very similar in structure to haematoxylin found in logwood.

When using sappanwood as a dye and to enrich the red colour, you can add a pinch of calcium carbonate to the dye bath for reds, and a teaspoon full will yield more crimson shades. Without the use of calcium carbonate you will achieve a more orangey shade.

With many of the plant dyes from Wonky Weaver, we recommend first putting the powder in a pot, pouring over warm to hot water, and then soaking overnight before using. This helps liberate the natural colours from the dry dye powder before use. When using Sappanwood to achieve bright shades, we recommend 50g of dye powder, and for lighter reds/pinks, 20g should suffice but this always requires some experimentation. Many beginner dyers get disappointed and disgruntled when things don't work out or if the dyed item doesn't result in the notional desired colour first time?!!?? Natural dyeing is fun and requires exploration, but if you are dyeing something expensive then always do a trial run!

Once the dye is liberated in the water, we recommend sieving the liquor to remove any debris, undissolved matter or in the case of woody dyes, left over shards. This is particularly important when dyeing yarn so that the debris does not get caught in the yarn fibres. It also avoids dye spotting on fabrics. Mix the calcium carbonate with a little hot water, and then add to the dye liquor. This is now ready to add to the water in your dye bath.

Add 100g pre-mordanted yarn or fibre to the dye bath and simmer for 1 hour. Do not boil. Remove the yarn, and if you wish to exhaust dye to gain paler shades, add another 50g -100g pre-mordanted yarn or fibre to the dye bath and simmer for another 1 hour.

Wash the yarn in warm water, and in the case of wool, ensure there are not sudden changes in water temperature to avoid felting the wool.

Once washed, consider using our dye fixative wash solution which helps fix the dye and improves washfastness/wetfastness.

Most importantly, enjoy natural dyeing and have fun!!

Here is a link to an interesting academic article on Sappanwood:

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