Finally made a little dye collage! Pokeberry (like 3 month old pokeberry solution haha), pine cone, some red berries? with iron mordant, turmeric and avocado peels.


dyes for bones?

Was reading some books on herbs and found entire sections on dyes made from plants. Usually these are for yarn, but it suddenly hit me that these could be used for bones! Why didn’t I think of this before? Cue me looking through all of my herb books for dye ideas! So here’s my note-to-self of herbs (and other stuff!) to try dyeing with. Feel free to add more if you have suggestions!!!

Red & pink: bloodroot, pokeberry, rosehips, sorrel, roses, avocado pits (?!), sumac berries

Yellow & orange: beetroot, dahlias, goldenrod, heather, marigold, pear leaves, rudbeckia, saffron, turmeric, zinnias, chamomile, carrots

Green: bracken, dock, nettles, spinach, plantain, lily of the valley

Blue & violet: blackberries, blueberries, mulberries, red cabbage, elderberries, indigo, juniper berries, yellow flag

Brown & black: sassafrass, sumac bark / stem, willow, pretty much any tree bark, onion skins, walnut husks, meadowsweet, tea, coffee, acorns, dandelion root

Warm / hot water makes the process go much faster. For some of these, especially tougher components like roots and bark, I imagine that simmering them in water and then letting it cool before dropping in your bones would help bring out the color. I’m really excited to try these!!



It started as a mistake, transformed workflow for architects, and revived Japanese print-making.

Created as a result of mixing blood, potash, and iron sulfate while trying to make red cochineal dye, Prussian blue was announced officially in 1710. 

Paper covered with ammonium ferric citrate plunged into potassium ferricyanide turned Prussian blue and preserved the image of objects set on top of the paper in the process. And thus the “cyanotype” was born.

From there, architects found these “blue prints” useful to make copies of one drawing. Sound familiar?

More in The Brilliant History of Color in Art

The Italian Comedians, about 1720, Jean-Antoine Watteau. J. Paul Getty Museum.
Equisetum sylvaticum, 1853, Anna Atkins; and Anne Dixon. J. Paul Getty Museum.

Answers to your Alchemy’s Rainbow Questions!



We didn’t get time to ask all the #SciCulture Twitter question on the April show. But never fear, Mark Bockrath has taken the time to answer all the questions for the blog. And some of the answers are quite strange. Who had any idea that mango-leaf chewing cows were used to make a pigment?

If you missed “Alchemy’s Rainbow: Pigment Science and the Art of Conservation,“ you can watch it here

Q: Arcanian@GrandArcanian How much longer lasting are modern colors than those made by an alchemist? How long would a modern painting last? #SciCulture  

A: Many modern pigments are more stable than older pigments of similar color, but not all. Some modern paintings are painted with dyes and fluorescent pigments that fade faster than many old pigments.

Q: fiddle chat@ChatFiddle Which pigments are the most resilient? #Sciculture

A: Earth colors such as ochres, umbers and sienna. Also, most mineral pigments, natural or artificial, like cinnabar, cobalt colors, ultramarine, cadmium and chrome colors are stable. Titanium and zinc whites are quite stable. Dye-based and organic pigments are the least stable.

Q: Arcanian@GrandArcanian: How does the type of oil used affect the paint? What other oils can be used?

A: Linseed is the most important oil historically, but poppy oil, walnut oil, safflower oil and other drying oils have been used. The latter oils were used to avoid the yellowing of linseed oil but they often don’t form as durable a film as linseed oil. Softer oils may lead to damage to the paint film when it is cleaned; oils that yellow will darken the painting’s color.

Q: Patricia @Hard2get_who was the most famous alchemist to make pigments? Newton? Boil? Brahe? Aristotle?

A: I don’t know this one.

Q: Kevin Brandon@Kev_nBrandon How much was known about UV light dulling colors and what was done to prevent it if anything

A: People have known for centuries that light fades paintings, fabrics, etc., even if they didn’t know that the UV portion of the spectrum is the biggest cause of the damage until perhaps the mid 20th century.  In the past, materials that faded easily were kept out of direct sunlight, were covered with curtains attached to frames, or kept in closed albums (esp. watercolors). 

Q: Patricia @Hard2get_isnt there a really rare yellow that comes from a plant only found in vietnam?

A: I can’t think of one.

Q: Arcanian@GrandArcanian Did pigment availability have an effect on the development of painting techniques?

A: For most European painters since the Renaissance, a wide array of similar pigments were available throughout Europe, so a French painter was not restricted to a different palette than an Italian painter. However, as each new pigment was developed and found widespread use, palettes changed from period to period.  The use of drying oils like linseed oil didn’t change much after oil painting became important in the 16th century. The technique of oil painting changed mostly as a result of stylistic choices–early painters using the oil medium thinly and in a detailed manner almost like earlier tempera layering (Van Eyck), and later painters using thicker paint and looser handling (Rembrandt). Artists could only choose from available pigments, so Old Master painters made do with duller yellows and mixed greens, unlike the Impressionist painters, who had so many newly-developed bright yellows, clear greens and blues and violets than had ever been seen before, so this allowed them to paint with much greater brilliance of color.

Q: Arcanian@GrandArcanian Were certain regions/countries better at producing a certain pigment than others?

A: Yes, especially pigments that were found in ores that were plentiful in certain areas-ultramarine blue from Afghanistan, graphite from England, umbers and sienna from Umbria and Sienna areas in Italy, which had particularly fine deposits of those pigments.  Many of these pigments are found world-wide, but some countries had especially rich deposits or had been mining them for long times before they were found elsewhere.  Also, some countries had pigment industries that were very particular to their location- mummy brown is only from Egypt, cochineal was made from red insects found in South America after it was colonized, and Indian yellow was produced from Indian cows fed on mango leaves (until it was prohibited in the 20th century).

Q: Sienna Latham@clerestories How affordable were pigments in early modern times? What was easily obtainable or expensive & difficult to find? #sciculture 

A: Earth pigments were comparatively inexpensive, as were some dye-based colors made from local plants.  Natural ultramarine blue was extremely expensive because of transportation costs, as it was found in large deposits in Afghanistan.  Manufactured pigments like litharge, white lead orpiment were more expensive than earth colors. Minerals like cinnabar that needed to be refined were costly.  For most European painters in early modern times, the earth colors, some dyes, the refined mineral pigments and manufactured pigments were widely available for purchase. The farther away the source of the pigment, the more it cost.  

(Image from Wikimedia Commons)                              




DIY Natural Fabric Dyes Chart and How To Dye Fabric from Anjou Clothing here. The yellow powder is tumeric and the bottom purple leaves are lavandar. These are the results that she got using 100% natural fabric liked undyed silk. For a how-to on dyeing natural fabrics go to the link (and also read the comments). First seen at Transient Expression here.

damn onion didnt know u could gettit like that

Inspirtation for me wowza!

Solarpunk fashion



Some ponderings on clothing trends in a sustainable future.

  • Natural fabrics – Nanowoven textiles and smart fabrics are exciting, but not ubiquitous, and the post-oil age means a decline in artificial fibres. Sustainable textiles like wool, linen, jute and bamboo are the order of the day – hemp rather than cotton (the latter being notoriously demanding in terms of water, pesticides and fertiliser),  sheepskin rather than leather (cattle being more resource-intensive than sheep).
  • Natural colours – Many bright synthetic dyes also come from petrochemicals, so a sustainable future may see a shift to plant and animal dyes or a trend for leaving fabrics undyed entirely. Reds, oranges, browns and yellows are prevalent; blue, green and black reserved for smaller accents or accessories.
  • Made to last – All clothing made with greater attention to quality and durability – better to have one really good garment than three or four inferior garments which – while cheaper or easier to make – won’t last as long. A good coat or pair of shoes could become an heirloom, lovingly-mended and handed down from one generation to the next.
  • Simple but versatile – In keeping with the idea of having a smaller number of long-lived garments, most fashion and adornment involves changing accessories rather than entire outfits. Relatively simple clothing serves as a canvas for imaginative use of jewelry and accessories to give different looks.
  • Style, not fashion – Rather than a rapid turnover of short-lived fads and fashions, trends in clothing are slower to shift and involve smaller, subtler changes that can be performed by adjusting the clothes you already own rather than having to entirely replace your wardrobe. Emphasis is placed on comfort, practicality, durability and quality of construction. Styles are deliberately atemporal rather than avant-garde.
  • Repaired, reclaimed, recycled – Many garments made from reclaimed fabrics, adapted from old clothes, and patched and darned to extend life as long as possible. “Refashioning” is popular.
  • Monoculture is death – There’s no single “solarpunk look” beyond a preference for the principles outlined above. What people wear is decided first of all by local environmental conditions and the availability of materials – for example, heavy insulating layers for cold climates and light, loose and flowing garments for hot climates. Some might have locally-grown homespun handmade outfits, others might have to wear things patched together from reclaimed scraps.

Natural colours – Many bright synthetic dyes also come from petrochemicals, so a sustainable future may see a shift to plant and animal dyes or a trend for leaving fabrics undyed entirely. Reds, oranges, browns and
yellows are prevalent; blue, green and black reserved for smaller
accents or accessories.“

Nope, wrong. Someone does not know a lot about natural dyes.

Most reds are pretty toxic to produce – the classic is the Turkish Red dye, from madder, which caused some serious ecological problems in areas where a lot of that was done, and cinnabar is mercury ore and toxic all on its own – although there’s a great pink (carmine, from cochineal, an insect from southwestern North America). Blue, on the other hand, can be really easy. Indigo in hot places, woad in cool ones. Both can be invasive, so you have to watch out for them, but the only chemical needed to use them is easily extracted from either certain minerals or from urine, which is at least plentiful and something you already have to worry about disposing of safely. There are actually quite a few easy greens, too, although many of them will require occasional overdyeing to keep strong.

So: Red should not be a commons color, but blue and green should be.

This one makes me nutty. Plant and animal dyes are not necessarily good for the environment. A lot of them either require toxic stuff to mordant the fiber with or are toxic themselves, or are harsh on the land or people to produce enough of for a dyestuff (like saffron, mentioned at the link given as “flower stamens”; saffron is massively labor-intensive and resource-intensive, that’s why it’s so expensive).

The linked article is better than this bit, but it, too, thinks that “Natural dyes by definition can be re-absorbed by nature.” Um, no. Plenty of things in nature are fucking poisonous to nature. Some of the synthetic dyes became popular because they were actually a lot safer and cleaner than the natural dyes they replaced. Yeesh.

Also, by the way, fiber comes in more colors than most people realize. Did you know that cotton naturally comes in both red/pink and green? That silk comes in metallic gold? That animal hair fibers come in a bunch of colors, including black?

(Okay, okay, the metallic quality of the gold silk doesn’t last through multiple washings. But it does stay a lovely yellow.)

Anyway, none of the things the OP lists as being reserved for smaller items actually needs to be. Blue and green can be produced relatively easily, and fiber comes in black even before you get to black dyes. But strong, bright reds will mostly be very costly and damaging – hey, just like it was before synthetic dyes.

Really, the OP should have looked at historical costuming more.

A little aggressive there, but good information. 


“Recounts the colorful history of cochineal, a legendary red dye that was once one of the world’s most precious commodities.”

a must read!

I’m reading this right now and it’s fascinating. The dye trade was as important in human history as the spice trade.