Thursday, July 12, 2012

shades of St John's Wort

St John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum) is a yellow-flowering perennial herb indigenous to Europe, it's a well known herbal medicine used to treat depression and anxiety. Many people prefer this natural remedy instead of antidepressantsIt is also known to relieve muscle problems and sunburn.
It is called St. John's wort because it blooms approximately on St. John's Day (June 24). But of course it was well known before the "saints" appeared in our regions. Other names are: Tipton's weedchase-devil or Klamath weed.

The name Hypericum is from the Latin word hyper meaning "above" and icon meaning "image or symbol", perforatum refers to the black punctured little holes on the underside of the leaves.
When you crush a flower bud between your fingers, you will release a burgundy red juice, the evidence of the presence of the hypericin flavonoid.

Thus St John's Wort is a symbol from above and it has potent "blood" in his veins which can chase away bad vibes  :)

Did you know that you can also make a wonderful herbal dye out of it?
Perfect for dyeing wool and silk !
According to natural dyes experts you can obtain different shades with it (mostly yellow) but I did get a wonderful pink "old rose" as you can see here.

lace merino, kidsilk mohair, cobweb silk

The method I'm using here, to obtain the dyes I like for some of my yarns, is somewhat different than what people are used to. It's based on the fermentation of the plant materials and on the adding of some agent, like for example lemon juice or lime.
It's a very, very old technique, you don't need to work with any alum or metals, you don't boil anything and yes, the colours on the dyed textiles are permanent, they will not fade or wash out. Basically it is more or less the same technique as when working with woad or indigo to obtain blues, which also need a fermentation vat ! It is a wonderful way to dye your own yarn because it's not suited for large quantities of yarn and you don't need big amounts of plant material. Because the colours you get are always somewhat different, depending on the quality of your "harvest", the time of the year, the amount of sunrays and last but not least, the wonderful work of the little fermenting creatures who will turn your dye in something bright or dull, depending on their changing moods :)

It is magic and alchemistic and I love it because the colours are strangely "alive"  :)

You can use a lot of the wild and cultivated herbs and plants in whatever region you live in. It's really fun to do and in the process you can learn about plants and their little secrets.

one acidic and one basic mixture in glass containers
with the same fermented plant: St John's Wort

The pictures I posted here are from an experiment I did two summers ago, but at this moment I've started one new fermenting vat with St Johns wort as I did found a lot of them in my neighbourhood.
With the strange weather we have here lately, they are still blooming...


  1. AnonymousJuly 12, 2012

    Hello Marylene and congratulations for your new blog. This is exactely what I'm looking for as I'm thinking of trying some dyeing work. You will be my "teacher" and I will follow carefully all your post.
    Thank you for sharing your experiment with us.
    Evening hugs.

  2. Congratulations on your new blog, Marylene :)
    Your post about st.john's wort is lovely, and the colours you achieved from the dyes are just amazing!
    St.john's wort grows in abundance around my neighbourhood, and it is one of my favourite dye plants. I use the simple boiling methode for dyes, and the plant dyes the wool a beautiful green colour. Now the plant is blooming, so it will be st.john's wort dye time for me too.

    I can't wait to hear more about your dyes and the fermentation methode!!
    Hugs :)

  3. Gefeliciteerd met je nieuwe blog!! Ik vind het heel leuk dat je meer gaat vertellen over het fermenterings proces! Ik vind het interessant om hier meer over te weten te komen!
    Ik ga je nieuwe blog volgen!

    Groetjes en succes met deze nieuwe start,Evelyne

  4. wow ! my first comments ! Thank you Rachel, Hilde and Evelyne for your support and kind words:)
    I will do the best I can and I hope I will not disappoint you !

  5. Oh, I am looking forward to reading about your dyeing experiments. I am learning about cold mordanting and using the sun to heat the pots - at least in summertime anyway when the temperatures zoom up to 36oC or more over here in Western Australia. Right now it is winter so time to cold mordant.

    1. Thank you Lydia, the temperature is not very high here because we have a lousy summer right now :(
      I appreciate your comment and I hope to see you back soon!

  6. I love reading about experiments in dyeing. I like your St John's Wort colour. It was a weed where I used to live but I never thought of using it to dye with!

    1. So you see there are a lot of plants we can use to dye with. I try to dye with mostly every plant that grows in my garden, especially the weeds but I stay away from the toxic ones.

  7. I got the same kind of colours from (cultivated) hypericum which is grown in parks all over the place here. I just made lots more dye!
    I'm finding your fermented dye information fascinating and am hoping to have a go next summer.

  8. There is a big bush on the mini roundabout outside my flat. I am not experient so which part do I need to dye cotton?