purple basil

Once you get a taste for dyeing with plants, you start to question the potential of everything around you: plants in your garden and surrounding landscape, your fridge, your food cupboard and even your medicine cabinet if you’re into herbs! I recently bought a bunch of purple basil to infuse in oil and serve with baked vegetables; rather than leaving the remaining half-bunch to turn to sludge in the fridge, I simmered it in water for 45min, strained the leaves out and added some yarn pre-mordanted in alum and cream of tartar to see if any of the dark red of the dyebath would bond to it.

Purple basil on wool/ silk and wool

Purple basil on wool/ silk and wool

Interestingly, the wool/ silk took up a lot of colour, while the wool just a touch, whereas sometimes the opposite happens. I’m starting to think there must be affinities between certain plant pigments and certain fibres… or perhaps the capacity for bonding is pH-related. It’s an enigmatic art.

6 thoughts on “purple basil

  1. balanda

    Looks lovely! Is it Ocimum tenuiflorum/sanctum, also known as holy or thai basil? It’s being investigated in India as a commercial natural dye (green with iron, I’ve heard). I have got to harvest some of this and try it!

  2. Jule

    Lovely! Theres a lot growing in the garden. I will trey this. No alum available (I’m on vacation) so i guess it will be a very light color. Good to read this post before i begin.

      1. Jule

        I only got a pale beige, nothing exciting. Next year i will try again dyeing with purple basil but before it flowers. We’ll see…


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