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Dyeing with Ice Plant, who knew?

Ice plant! There are so many different types of ice plant but I am talking about the ice plant that grows along the coast in California, predominantly the Southern and Central Coast of California. It is known to range from Baja to the top Northern part of California. The scientific name of this particular plant is Carpobrotus edulis. If you have ever lived there you know full well what I am talking about. It is an invasive plant introduced to help with erosion, which it does. On the other hand it is everywhere! In some cases this plant threatens native, and endangered, plants and so there is ABSOLUTELY no reason not to pick as much as you want!

I was inclined to try ice plant as a dye because, as a kid, I used to roll around in hills of the stuff with friends and our clothes would always become permanently stained! Far worse than grass stains. So when I went to go visit my brother early this year on the Central Coast of California, where I grew up, I grabbed some from a parking lot on my way out of town!

Below is a picture, not mine, that shows this plant. The fronds have three sides and the tips are pointy. I have seen the flowers be purple or white or yellow. I do not remember what color the flowers were on the plant I grabbed at my brother's place. As such my experiment may only apply to the plant I grabbed? I doubt it! I would think any ice plant with the three sides and this sort of pink hue to fronds and tips is the ONE!

Here is a picture of my hand in the bag of ice plant, and my hand holding a piece, so you can see size comparison.

When I pulled some ice plant there were no flowers on the branches I grabbed. There may have been some elements or roots but not a lot. They have shallow roots and really are very easy to harvest! I threw them in a bag and drove home, a trip which took twice as long as it should have due to so many conditions! I live in New Mexico and a trip that should have taken about 12 hours took over twice that! So the ice plant, including motel stay, was in the car for 2 days, no refrigeration.

I am telling you all this because I am still relatively new to plant dyeing (2 yrs) and want to tell you all the variables involved. I believe I left it in the car for the night, when I got home, and then sampled it the next day. I can't remember why I thought it was promising? Haha. At that point I threw it in the freezer as there was a lot on my plate around the house at that time.

I pulled some out of the freezer a month or so later and got results! Wherever I wrote the process down, if I did, I cannot recall and I often head down mazes/rabbit holes when dyeing! I did remember important aspects of the process, however, and so embarked again, 6 months later.

I took the ice plant out of the freezer. I am not sure how much I had but the pot I put it in was a 3 gallon stainless steel pot. Pushing the ice plant down it was about 1/2 full? Again, no harm in using as much as you want since its invasive!

I set on the stove with water covering and let to simmer for an hour or so. You can see there is really little to no color in that water!!!

So I turned it off, covered it, and let it sit overnight, perhaps 24 hrs. Now it could take less time but that is what I did. Lift the lid the next day and viola! There is a iridescent, almost like an oil slick, on the top and the water, along with most of the ice plant, is now richly pink!!! Take the ice plant out.

SIDE TRIP At this point I actually tossed the ice plant into a part of my garden to decompose over the winter and then went back out the next day and grabbed it and threw it in water again, simmering, and I got dye again!!!! This time I did not let sit overnight. I guess the ice plant was activated at that point?

Back to dyeing! I primarily work with linen I have spun. For this experiment I also added some wool Churro roving to see the results on wool. The linen was mordented with juniper ash water (I have a post and video on that process) and then 2 baths of alum and cream of tartar. The wool had 2 baths of alum and cream of tartar. (I put the wool in a nylon/polyester? bag to mordant and dye and that bag dyed too!).

Put your fiber in the dye bath and simmer for about an hour. Honestly I think it takes up color a lot faster but an hour is a good bet for saturation? I am usually very impatient and takes things out earlier! Haha. But lookie!!! (book in background is Wild Colour by Jenny Dean).

The dusty rose is amazing I think. I am not always a fan of pink but when it comes to plant dyeing I love all the colors!!! As for colorfastness? I am giving you a picture of a linen bag I made months ago with my first experiment. Now I cannot be sure I did not overdye this a little with leftovers from a safflower dye liquid but it has been exposed to sun coming through a window for months and the color is still amazing! If the ice plant dye were not fast I would assume this bag would have turned light pink from the safflower dye. You can see my linen thread, dyed with this current dye bath, and the bag, dyed back in March? The bag was dyed after weaving and sewing.

Other discoveries....adding iron produces a fun darker color of the dusty rose. (I use my rusty nail iron water and it was behaving as though it was less strong? I may have diluted it though the year so I am not sure of its strength). Below is a picture of linen tassels on top of that woven linen bag. The tassels to the right were dipped in iron water.

Washing soda added nothing of interest for me in terms of color change.

Go out there and snag some, a lot, of ice plant and have fun! I may ask my brother to mail me some as mine is used up now! Haha.

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