This is a blog post on fabric dyeing with Brazilwood. Brazilwood is also known as Sappanwood (it’s coming from Asia rather than Brazil) or Caesalpinia species. The red dye color is extracted from the heartwood in the 16th century. It is highly prized since then for its manufacture in the use as a dye like velvets. It is also has got medicinal properties used as an anti-diuretic, astringents, and even possible cancer treatments.
For fabric dyeing, one needs to buy brazilwood powder or chips from crafts or natural dye suppliers. I got mine from George Weil. They have been around for a while and they also provide a reliable online service.
It hasn’t got the fastness properties of a madder but it gives a nice rich red and claret colors. In my experiment, I use it for natural fabric printing as well. Where I found the color changes quite quickly to the ph of the water. I have used all sorts of tannins, leaves, and iron that affected the final outcome of the color. The wood itself is high in tannins.
Fabric dyeing with Brazilwood
Prepare the dye pot as it takes a while to extract the red color from the Brazilwood. Measure out what around 25-50% WOF (weight of fiber) ratio. Then simmer the wood chips for 1-3 hours in water. Leave to steep overnight so that the colors develop. I didn’t do the steeping step, as a result, the colors obtained from the dye bath are quite light and pale.
There are certainly mainly variables that will affect the final outcome of the Brazilwood dye on the fabric like the use of soda ash, natural tannins, acetic acid (citrus juice or vinegar). The use of iron tends to darken the color.