Light fastness on Buddleia skeins

During late summer buddleia or butterfly bush starts to flower. Suddenly the riverbanks and railways of London are shining in purple glow attracting insects and natural dyers. Buddleia was one of those plants that everyone was dyeing with this summer so I thought I would too. I don’t normally dye with flowers, the light and colour fastness isn’t always the best and I like to dye with plants that create a lasting colour in yarn. In saying that, I really love to experiment also and enjoy finding new dye plants around me.

There are two different varieties of Buddleia near me; one with light purple flowers and one with dark purple flowers. I prepared a separate dye bath for each and dyed some skeins pre mordanted with Alum. I only had about few hundred grams of each of the blooms for this experiment.

Skeins dyed with light purple buddleia flowers and dark buddleia flowers

The lighter blooms yielded a lovely golden yellow and the bath had such a strong colour even after I took the skeins out. The dark blooms dyed the yarn a lovely olive green. The colours were so beautiful! And as Buddleia is everywhere, quick to spread and a bit of a pest, I thought it could be perfect for a dye plant. I hadn’t read much about it though, as a dye plant, which made me question the colour and light fastness.

I divided my skeins and placed a small skein of each colour into my windowsill. My window gets a alot of light through the day, especially during the summer months. And the summer went on for well into September this year. Today I started to compare the skeins from the light to their counterparts I’d kept in the dark.

Skein from the windowsill on the left compared to the one left in the dark
Skein from the windowsill compared to the one kept in the dark
Close up on the sun faded skein

There is so much fading on both skeins. Even the skeins I kept in the dark, have lost their amazing glowing colour and have turned much duller. But the fading from the sun is really strong and in some parts the yarn has turned almost white. The yarn was exposed to sun for three months during my test. I’m quite disappointed as I was so exited about the possibilities of Buddleia. I think from now on I’m going to leave the flowers for the butterflies.


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