Dyeing with Common Reed

Reed flowering in July

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. The flowering season for Common Reed (phragmites australis) goes away as quickly as Christmas. The purple bushy shoots dye beautiful greens. They need to be used on the same day of picking, which makes the dye season even shorter.

The lakeline near my home is abundant in reeds. The plants I collect from, are smaller than many you can see on sides of roads and on the sea shores, but they still give out great colour. The location of the plants, make them a bit of a challenge for foraging. The last two years, I have resorted to paddle boarding amongst them in my bathing suit which has proved an effective method and quite enjoyable on a hot day.

Reed flower picking

The dye recipe I use for dyeing with reed is the same as usual. I always pre-mordant my fibres with alum. I simmer the reed shoots for an hour and then add in my material to the purple liquid for another hour of simmering. I leave the blooms in for maximum colour and I always leave the fibres in overnight.

Freshly picked Reed flowers in July
Dye bath of yarn and Reed flowers after an hour of simmering

I play around with my quantities of fibre/dye stuff when I dye with reed. This years first dye bath had 100g of Reed flowers and I optimistically added in 100g of wool/bamboo. It started taking on a gorgeous green quite quickly so I added in 40g of merino/nylon and sample of silk. I was very happy with my first dye bath as all the fibres came out in beautiful bright green shades.

L-R: merino/nylon and wool bamboo dyed with reed flowers
Silk + alum dyed with Reed flowers

6 thoughts on “Dyeing with Common Reed

  1. Love this post and it has inspired me to try this plant for both dyemaking and ecoprinting. Beautiful leaf green and a pale aquamarine on one scarf. Thankyou for sharing this info on use on different fabrics. I love the colour on cotton and silk I have tried so far. Wool next! Some paper too.


  2. can I ask you why it does have to be used on the same day as the picking?
    I was reading that there is a possibility to freeze the flowers, do you have any experience with this?


  3. I love dyeing with reed! I tried it for the first time this year and couldn’t believe the intensity of the green, such a beautiful colour. I also got a pinkish colour from it when I mordanted the wool with tartaric acid. I can’t wait for next year!^^


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