dye pot

Fabric dyeing with ivy

This blog post is about fabric dyeing with ivy (using mordant). I live in the UK there is lots of ivy everywhere. They can be invasive. Therefore I decided to obtain some dye out of them. However, ivy is not the easiest plant of all to obtain dye from. I am also not sure if the dyes do last at all. I will update this post once I know about it. Here is a post I wrote about Dahlia flowers and ivy dyeing in that blog post I had some issues obtaining dye but now I manage to get some dye out of the ivy.

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Ivy leaves and berries are available all year round to harvest especially if you are living in a climate similar to the UK. Once established they grow like weeds in damp cold climates. Some use ivy for decorative purposes as they are hardy and easy to grow. They are natural climbers so they look good filling up a climbing frame.

As a gardener, I don’t like them as they are trying to take over/ dominate my elderflower tree and I can’t wait to get rid of them. There are also lots of slugs under an ivy bush. Not good when they are eating and killing your crops. They (ivy) are not easy to get rid of as they seem to establish their roots everywhere they go. Using them for natural dyeing is an excuse to get rid of them even more.

For dyeing purposes, I would suggest harvesting leaves and berries around autumn time as that is when tannin levels are high in plants. Which means the better the chances of getting dye out of them.

dyeing with ivy leaves
dyeing with ivy leaves with silk & wool (protein) fibres and cotton (cellulose) fibres.

Above on the top picture, it’s dyed with pre-mordanted fibres with alum and below is with post-dye pot dip with iron as a mordant.

Natural dyeing

Fabric dyeing with fresh ivy as said can be tricky to obtain. There are much easier dye plants to obtain dyes from sumac leaves instead. It’s because there is a wax film on the leaves that needs to be broken into before any dye can be obtained. If one doesn’t have them on hand they are available in the dried form online from dye and craft suppliers in dried form. The leaves and berries will yield different colours so do separate them.

Boil the leaves for about half an hour or till there is some colour in the pot. Then all the pre-mordant (i use alum) fibres. Boil gently (simmer) for another 15 minutes to half an hour. I have also dipped the fibres in iron to deepen the colour.

Above its pre, mordant fibres (protein and cellulose) with alum and below is with post-dye using iron mordant.

To draw colour from the berries ground them first in a pestle and mortar. Then boil like the ivy leaves. I have to use the same mordants and the result is a much deeper colour.

Do give it a try if there are plenty of ivies around and they freely grow everywhere. It’s available in abundance and they grow like weeds.

For supplies, I buy the mordants from George Weil a UK UK-based craft supplier. They also sell dried ivy leaves and many other supplies (like indigo, cochineal, etc) for natural dyeing.

Let me know how it went. Good luck and all the best.

fabric dyeing using ivy leaves

5 thoughts on “Fabric dyeing with ivy”

  1. I have had fabulous results with ivy. Leave to simmer for an hour and leave it to cool before adding cloth or wool mordanted with alum. If you use soda ash as a modifer you get lime green.

  2. Ivy actually does not kill trees – it forms a symbiosis with them. Ivy is also a brilliant plant for wildlife as (when growing vertically) it provides blossoms for pollinators, berries for wild birds and shelter.

    1. Thank you for your comments while I agree with you, the elderberry tree in my back garden is now happy flourishing without ivy roots growing on its bark. All the best.

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