Dyeing with Hedge Bedstraw

I have spent the last three weeks home in Finland. The summer has been hot and dry and many plants normally in bloom, have long since flowered. Luckily the hedgerows are still full of plants to dye with and its given me an opportunity to stray away from my usual dye plants.

I found large batches of hedge bedstraw – (Galium verum) growing on the edge of the fields by my parents house and did a little digging to find a cluster of dark red roots. Hedge bedstraw is a member of the Rubiaceae family and a relative of madder so I was particularly excited about finding a wild source for reddish shades. As the source of the dye is found in the roots, you must obtain permission from the land owner to dig them up.

Hedge bedstraw – Galium Verum
The thin string like plan tops have clusters of red roots
Roots after a good cleaning

I weighed 40 grams of roots, cleaned them in water and scrubbed off most of the dirt. I left them to soak overnight in water and then simmered the roots the next day for an hour. I left this liquid to cool and waited another day to set up my dyebath. I wanted to dye a skein of sock yarn for myself (100 grams of wool/nylon) a sample of silk (10 grams) and a small cotton swatch. These were all premordanted with alum; cotton with alum acetate and wool & silk with alum sulphate. I kept the roots in with the fibres and kept the temperature at 80 degrees for an hour. Due to being a bit distracted, the fibres sat in the dye bath for two days before being rinsed.

Wool/nylon, silk and cotton fabric dyed with hedge bedstraw roots

Normally when dyeing with a new dye plant, I use more plant material than fibres to try and achieve strongest possible colours. This time I wanted to dye a full skein for knitting purposes. Due to lack of time, I used the roots fresh from the ground. I wonder if drying them would have deepened the colour. It’s still an incredibly lovely colour! The shade difference in the three different fibres is also very clear with th cotton going towards red, the silk orange and the wool somewhere in between.


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