Let’s talk about how to dye with logwood today. This post has been long overdue because logwood is a rather straightforward dyestuff to use and you can create versatile and beautiful results with it. In this post I will show you how to dye yarn with logwood. But of course you can also use logwood to dye fabric.
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What is logwood? It is a tree that has many different common names, like blackwood, bloodwood tree or bluewood. The scientific name is Haematoxylum campechianum. It is native to southern Mexico and has been used for dyeing purposes since at least the 17th century. In addition, the bark and leaves can also be used in medical applications. Logwood is pH sensitive which means that it changes its color in different pH environments.
The part of the logwood tree that is used for dyeing purposes is extracted from the heartwood of the tree. You can purchase it in either the form of woodchips or sawdust powder. I have used both form for my yarn dyeing and couldn’t tell much difference.
How to Dye with Logwood FAQ
Which Colorways does Logwood create?
You can dye beautiful shades of purple, grey and blue with logwood.
Is Logwood Colorfast?
Logwood sometimes gets a bad rep for not being lightfast (meaning that the color fades over time when exposed to sunlight). In my experience, if you use a yarn that has been mordanted thoroughly, colorfastness has not been an issue. I have a knitted shawl that I made from yarn dyed with logwood 3 1/2 years ago and it still has its original shade of purple.
picture above: knitting pattern: Blossom (shawl) by Along avec Anna
yarn: Rosemary & Pines Fiber Arts Classic Sock DK “Viola”, 2 skeins
In general, I like to treat logwood dyed yarns with iron in order to improve the lightfastness. You can read more about this method in this blog post.
Does Logwood Dye Bleed?
Color bleeding is an undesirable effect that happens when you wet a dyed yarn (or fabric) and some dye particles start to wash out into the water. In the worst case, this can cause discoloration of other pieces that happen to be in the same bath.
Logwood is indeed one of the natural dyes that needs to be washed out very thoroughly after the dyeing process. You will notice that the skeins get a lot lighter than what they were directly after taking them out of the dye bath. This can be a bit disappointing but it is nevertheless very important to pay close attention to the washing step in order to avoid bleeding issues in the future.
How Much Logwood should I Use?
Logwood is a very efficient dyestuff. If you use 3-5% at weight of fiber (WOF) you will receive very saturated, deep shades. And you will be able to use the dyebath for several more exhausts. This means that you can reuse the dye bath for several more rounds of natural dyeing. Just keep in my mind that the subsequent yarns will have a lighter shade of color. If you use less than 3% at WOF you will still receive beautiful color hues, just less saturated.
picture above from far left to middle: first, second and third exhaust of dyeing with logwood.
How to Dye with Logwood: Natural Dyeing Process
List of Materials
|Undyed skein of yarn||100 g|
You can simply use an undyed, natural skein of yarn. Maybe you even have some suitable yarIron(II) Sulfate (FeSO4)n already in your stash. If you want to use a yarn that is in the form of a ball or cake, you have to create a skein first. This can be done by using a swift (this is the one I use and can recommend).
Alum or potassium alum (KAl(SO4)2·12H2O) is a mordant which means that it is used to set dyes on fibers by forming a coordination complex with the dye. It increases the fastness of the dye.
Iron(II) sulfate (FeSO4) is being used to enhance the lightfastness of the dyed yarn.
|Pot||You can use an old pot or acquire one just for natural dyeing purposes. This is the size I use if I dye only one skein at a time, it has a holding capacity of 6 qt (5.7 L).|
|Bucket or Washing Pan||To scour and wash the yarn.|
|Kitchen Scale||To measure the alum, iron and dyestuff. This is the one I use.|
|Tie||To secure the yarn and avoid tangling. You have to use something that is stable in boiling water and doesn’t give off any color. I usually use some kind of package cord.|
|Spoon||Wooden or stainless steel|
|Dish Shoap||Whatever you have on hand.|
This is used to scour and wash the yarn.
|Wool Laundry Detergent||This is the one I use and can recommend. It is gentle and doesn’t have any smell.|
Precautions: Don’t use the same pots and utensils for natural dyeing that you use for food preparation. Always wear gloves. Creating the dye solution and the dyeing process itself should be done in a well ventilated area. I often use a cooking plate that I put on my patio.
3 g of logwood (in either sawdust powder or woodchips form) are slowly brought to a simmering and heated for about 60 minutes. Then let the pot cool down and sit overnight.
On the following day, filter off the dyestuff. If you want to create a tonal skein with darker and lighter spots throughout, you can also choose to leave the logwood particles in the pot.
Then add a 100g skein of yarn (mordanted with alum beforehand). You can read all about how I mordant my yarns in this blog post.
Heat the pot for 60 minutes, then let it cool down and sit overnight. On the next day, you can the yarn out of the dye, wash thoroughly and hang to dry. The dye bath can be used for at least two more exhausts.
Modifying with Iron:
If you want to enhance the lightfastness of your logwood dyed yarn, you can do so by modifying the yarn with iron sulfate after the dyeing process is complete.
In order not to damage the fibers and make them brittle, I only immerse the yarn in an iron bath for a short amount of time and without applying any heat. You can read all about my general method for modifying yarn with iron in this blog post.
This will not lead to any color changes (which iron sulfate tends to initiate in the case of other natural dyes) since the yarn is only immersed in the iron bath for a short amount of time and without applying additional heat.
How to Dye Yarn with Logwood: Color Results
picture above from left to right: second and first exhaust
Now, let’s have a look at the color results. Logwood yields beautiful shades of purple, blue and grey. The color hue depends not only on the amount of logwood you used and the base color of the yarn but can be influenced by several other factors as well. The pH of the dye solution and the hardness of your water play an important role as well.
picture above: first exhaust but with a different dyeing technique to achieve a variegated effect
Mixing Dyestuff for even more Color Variety
If you want to broaden the color spectrum further, you can do so by mixing logwood with other natural dyes. For example, combining it with coffee will tone down the overall color and create warm, more muted shades. You can find the exact instructions in this blog post.
And here are some examples of speckled and variegated yarns using logwood together with cochineal and reseda:
And if you want some more inspiration on plants and other natural materials you can use for natural dyeing, I recommend that you have a look at the natural dyeing category of the blog.
In case you don’t want to execute the natural dyeing process yourself but still want to enjoy a skein of yarn naturally dyed with logwood, you can have a look at my Etsy shop. I usually have some yarn available (either as a single skein or as part of a mini skein set) which has been dyed with logwood.
picture above: Rosemary & Pines Fiber Arts Luster Sock DK “Lavender”