Dyeing with dock

Dock leaves are one of my most commonly used dye plants due to their year round availability in London.

A friend of mine Louise, who runs South Down Yarns had a great idea to do some tests on dock dyeing in different places using different varieties and share our results and as a huge lover of dock dyeing I immeadietly did some experiments.

I prepared a dye bath of 400g of dock leaves, these were all broad leaved dock (Rumex obtusifolius) which I collected from the riverside in west London.

I simmered the leaves for an hour and let the bath cool. I measured the PH which was between 5-6. (Normally my tap water comes around 7). I strained the bath and added my yarn; 120 grams of merino singles as well as 20g of South Down Yarns wool.

These were simmered for an hour and then left to cool in the pot. All skeins apart one of each variety were pre mordanted with alum.

L-R: Merino singles + Alum, Merino singles no mordant, SDY + Alum, SDY no mordant
L-R: Merino singles Alum + copper, SDY Alum + copper, Merino singles Alum + iron, SDY Alum + iron
L-R: SDY + acid modifier, Merino singles + acid modifier, Merino singles + alkaline modifier, SDY + alkaline modifier

I tried four different modifiers; iron, copper, acid (ph 2) and alkaline (ph 9) . The yarn was in the modifiers for 15 minutes and I rinsed the skeins immediatly afterwards.

This was one of the many experiments I plan to do with dock leaves. I have read alongside oxalic acid the leaves are full of tannins, but don’t seem to have the same reaction to iron as other tannin rich plants (Usually the colours shift to greys). I would love to know more about the soil content of where I’m foraging as I’ve seen various dye baths yielding apricot shades, which I have never seen in any of my dock dyeing. I am planning to spend some time in Finland over the summer and near my home, the fields are full of curly leaf dock (Rumex crispus) so a whole new set of dyeing needs to be done whilst I am there.


2 thoughts on “Dyeing with dock

  1. Just discovered Town Dyer and think it is an absolute joy! I have been dyeing for years in the Highlands of Scotland and have been using dock this week. Re your comments on bracken – I’m surrounded by it as far as the eye can see! Thank you!


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