More Extracts

Several weeks ago I was sent some more extracts to try out. This time they came from Debbie Bamford ( They were extracts of Brazilwood and Chestnut and also one labelled “Green”. I have tried extracts of brazilwood and chestnut  in the past, and also one from another supplier labelled “Green”, but it’s always useful to be able to try others. Brazilwood extract was in fact on the market about 20 years ago, both as a powder and as a type of resin,  and I used it then. However, when I supplied natural dyes by mail-order, it was interesting to notice how reluctant dyers were to buy the extracts instead of the dyes in their plant form, even when I pointed out that the extracts would actually work out cheaper because they go such a long way. Now, of course, dyes in extract form have become very popular, although some dyers still prefer to process their own dyes from plant to dyepot.

Brazilwood gives lovely reds and a brilliant purple when used with a washing soda modifier and I was very pleased with the results from this extract. I was interested to see that the acidic modifier produced very little change in shade, especially as, when used with brazilwood in its plant form, it usually gives a bright orange. Brazilwood is not as lightfast as the other red dyes, madder and cochineal, but I sometimes use brazilwood over madder-dyed fibres to increase the brilliance of the colours. A little brazilwood extract added to a madder extract dyebath should give good results, although I haven’t tried it yet.


Brazilwood samples (alum mordant)         From top to bottom: no modifier, acidic modifier, alkaline modifier, iron modifier

 Note: all samples on wool yarn



 Chestnut gives soft brown shades and deep grey when used with an iron modifier. As it is rich in tannin, it can also be a useful plant mordant for vegetable fibres and silk. “Green” gave an interesting range of shades and I was particularly intrigued by what happened with a washing soda modifier. (See photo below). The only thing I find slightly irritating is that when an extract is simply labelled “Green”, or given a name such as “Moody Blues”, I have no idea which plants have been used in its production. Of course, I understand that manufacturers don’t want to give away trade secrets, so I’m prepared to cope with my irritation and use the extract anyway. I do keep telling myself that I should stop asking so many questions and just enjoy using the products but still……………………..

                                                                                                                                                  img_2056This shows the “Green” wool samples on the left & the Chestnut wool samples on the right.  The order of samples with each dye is: A & B with no modifier, A & B + alkali, A & B+ iron

NOTE: A = no mordant & B = alum mordant.

2 replies
  1. Debbie Bamford
    Debbie Bamford says:

    Hi Jenny,
    Lovely range of colours you’ve got – I am particularly well pleased with the Brazilwood it is from Caesalpinia rather than Pernambouco trees.

    I do know that the yellow base in the “green” is from fustic with a tannin addition – but I cannot get any information about where the “greening” comes from. (the details I have say that they HAVE to keep that secret!!!) At least it’s a little more information than you had!

    I have a blue coming soon, which I’ll send you to try out. It’s not an indigo based blue, but is from a natural tree, (tropical of course) they’re hoping it will become a natural food colourant rather than dye – my own tests so far have not found it particularly lightfast, but it’s a good deep blue!

    Best wishes,

  2. Helen
    Helen says:

    Hi Jenny

    through reading various forums and groups on natural dyeing, there does seem to be this underlying fear of natural plant extracts which I feel is partly because of the ignorance surrounding mould and the shelf life of certain natural dyes. Quite a lot of the questions surrounding storage would suggest that people dont look into the extracts as an alternative because there is little information regarding shelf life and safely storing the liquid after use.

    Obviously the beautiful extracts are not as well known just yet and something else which might be a contributing factor for anyone wanting to try out natural dyeing as a newish experience is that the whole process of cultivation or gathering raw materials, preparing them for the dye bath then going through the process of mordant, dye and modifiers, well they might feel like they havent really dyed in the natural way if they use an extract prepared by someone else.

    Your work with them certainly throws out all of those theories and the colour results are incredible that you have shown. I particularly like that violent pinky colour third one down in the first photograph, so vibrant and rich looking.


    Helen x

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