Lemon Balm Dye

Lemon Balm Dye Experiment

Over the weekend I cut back a pot of lemon balm I have growing on my porch. My intention had been to bundle it up and hang it to dry. After two days of watching it dry in a big unruly clump on my kitchen table I decided to see what kind of dye I might be able to get from the bunch.

I'm not having much luck getting a good picture. This is what happens if I don't pull my camera out and snap those pics first thing in the morning. The above picture is as close to the true colors as I could get today.

Back to the dye..So I filled a medium pot about half way and threw the lemon balm leaves and stems in. I let it come to a boil and then I turned it down to simmer.

My house smelled beautiful, nice and lemony. My husband complained about the smell. I have cooked down lemon grass in the past so I could use the fibers to make handmade paper and the smell was truely horrible. So even though the lemon balm just had a nice lemony smell my husband was probably having a flash back to the lemon grass days. He quickly left for work : )

I alway do two batches..... one with fabric I soaked in alum and one with just plain fabric.   A Word on mordants........ After reading all the blogs and books about using a mordant when dyeing with plants I still had to see for myself what the difference is. There is a big difference!

From what I have read Alum is the safest mordant to use. It is a salt product and is sold in the grocery store in the spice section. As much  fun as I am having I do not want to play around with any mordants that can be dangerous because of my children and grandchildren. So I will only be using Alum as a mordant.

After about 45 minutes of simmering I added some fabric to the pot. All of my experiments have been on the same three types of fabric. I used muslin, linen or a cotton and cheesecloth. I am already thinking about an art quilt using all the pieces of fabric I have used in my experiments.

 I added the fabric without the mordant to the pot first and let it simmer for about an hour. After removing it from the pot and rinsing I then added the fabric with the mordant.

I also noticed that the fabric with the mordant takes on color much quicker then with out. So darker color would be possible just by leaving the fabric in the dye longer. I'm a pretty impatient person so I can barely stand waiting an hour or so.

Fabric on the left with Alum
Fabric on the right without Alum

I love the colors I am getting with the mordant but I also love the colors I get without. From what I understand using a mordant sets the dye and enhances the color.  I can see how it enhances the colors. The fabric with out the mordant is blah compared to the fabric with. Blah do you like my technical word.

Thanks for stopping by and coming along on this adventure with me!


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