Dyeing with St John’s-Wort

I am fully taking advantage of my summer holiday at home and experimenting with new to me plants. St Johns-wort (hypericum perforatum) is one of these and what a fantastic little flower. According to Jenny Dean’s Wild Colour; four colours can be extracted in one dye bath! I went on to try this with some success

First I collected 80g of blooms (with some leaves) and simmered these until the dye liquid turned red. Then I added a 10g sample of unmordanted wool/bamboo as well as alum mordanted silk. Both started going red so I left them in for 10 minutes for the colour to deepen before removing from the dye bath.

Wool/bamboo – no mordant and silk mordanted with alum; dyed with blooms

Afterwards I added in a 20 g skein of alum mordanted merino/nylon which took on a brownish colour quite quickly, as did the skein that followed. I left the second skein in the bath overnight and modified both the next day with iron water for an olive green shade as I wasn’t particularly exited about the brown shades.

Alum mordanted merino/nylon dyed with St Johns-wort blooms + iron

Next bath I prepared, I dyed with the whole plant. I collected 100g of St Johns Wort and chopped it up to the dye pot. I simmered the bath for about 15 minutes until the dye liquid turned red again and then added in a 100 g skein of alum mordanted wool/bamboo. I left it for a simmer for 20 minutes and watched it turn a beautiful shade of green. I took the skein out and left it to cool overnight.

1st and 2nd bath – wool/bamboo mordanted with alum

L-R: silk dyed with only blooms and silk dyed with whole plant

I added in more yarn to this dye bath; another 100g skein of wool/bamboo and some silk fabric and then left these in the dyebath overnight after simmering for 15 minutes. They both dyed a very similar green as the first dye bath.

So out of the four possible colours, I managed three; reddish, green and brown. The green kept on giving and the last few dye baths I only added in small mini skeins as the dye liquid started loosing its colour. It never gave me any yellows. The PH in all baths was neutral and I used rain water for dyeing. I wonder how St Johns Wort would work dried as Im tempted to take some with me to continue experimenting.


3 thoughts on “Dyeing with St John’s-Wort

  1. Hi!

    I’m pretty certain that this info is on this blog, but I can’t find it. When you say you used « alum mordanted » yarn, how do you do this? You pre-soak the yarn in an alum bath? What are the proportions? For how long?

    Don’t hesitate to simply point mo to the right post. 🙂

    Thank you so much!


    1. Hello! I pre mordant with 10 % alum of the weight of the fibres I want to dye. I usually do this in a separate dye bath; I heat the water and dissolve the alum in the bath and then add my fibres and simmer in 80 degrees for about an hour


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