Natural Dyeing with Osage
Radiant. Bright. Cheerful.
Osage Natural Dye to the rescue!
Grown in the southern states of the USA, Osage is one gorgeous Natural Dye that truly illuminates whatever fiber and fabric it colors.
From the heartwood of the Osage Orange Tree (Maclura pomifera), Osage can be purchased most readily in the form of wood chips, wood bits or powder. All work beautifully to color, but the larger the chunks, the more time will be needed to extract the color from the fibrous woody parts (see tips below).
Osage is commonly used for woodworking, as it's a high quality, rot-resistant, and extremely dense hardwood.
It has also been used medicinally, as well as as a Natural Dye.
It has a long, largely undocumented history with indigenous cultures in the United States, with use for bows, drums and beyond.
And, it is one of many trees that have been identified through fossil remains, but the only of its genus, to have survived into this age.
FIBER TYPES & ADDITIVES
Osage, like so many Natural Dyes, will show color differently on different fiber and fabric types. However, its most common result is a consistent bright and brilliant golden yellow.
Osage isn't too picky. As long as you soak it first and cook at medium heat for a few hours before dyeing, it performs beautifully. You may consider pouring your dyestuff into a loosely woven (e.g. cheesecloth) pouch to avoid having to pick Osage out of your fiber or dyeables.
Additionally, Osage appreciates the use of Alum for making a more long-lasting color result and for brightening it a pinch more. It is known to go green with both Copper and Iron, so if you have a few old copper pennies or rusty screws, you might try throwing them into the dyebath for a complete new color.
Iron generally shifts the bright golden hue toward a brown-olive tone and also works well as a mordant.
HOW MUCH DYE TO USE
Osage is a fun dye to work with and can be used at .5 : 1 to 1 : 1 (weight of Osage to weight of dry fiber/fabric) for the richest color. This means that 40 grams will dye approximately 40-80 grams (dry weight) of fiber/fabric.
It will continue to dye in lighter shades till the dye has been used up. Use less for a lighter hue of gold or yellow.
NATURAL DYE TIP
As mentioned, Osage is generally sold in the form of wood shavings or chips. Because these are larger, woody chunks, they take longer to prepare for dyeing.
It is recommended that you soak Osage in a bowl or bin overnight in warm water. You may even consider soaking for longer (1-2 days). Then, boil this soak water and Osage together for 1+ hours, and again, let soak another few hours or longer.
You may dye with the water and repeat the process to pull more dye later. Or, you may dye with the Osage dyestuff in the pot.
And, depending on the fiber or fabric being dyed, either strain off the Osage before dyeing OR contain it in a square of cheesecloth to keep if from sticking to fibers (it has a bad habit of sticking to any and every stray fiber).
NATURAL DYE RESULTS
Want to see what kind of results Osage give on different fibers (wool, silk, cotton, bamboo, etc.) and with different mordants? Check out the results here.
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For more information on Natural Dyes and each step of the Natural Dye process, check out "Intro to Natural Dye," ANINI Designs' 48-page eBook.
I cover everything I teach in my 4-hour in-person Intro to Natural Dye Workshops, in addition to offering eco-friendly adaptions to the process.