Sappan Reds and Purples

Updated: Jul 31, 2020

How to use sappan wood as a fabric dye.

Sappan Wood, also known as eastern Brazilwood, or East Indian red wood.

Latin name: Caesalpinia Sappan

Sappan wood is a multipurpose tree, giving us valuable natural dyes with medicinal plant properties. In India, it is cultivated in gardens and nurseries as a live fence plant in parts of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Andra Pradesh and West Bengal. Known in Ayurvedic medicine for its' antibacterial and anticoagulant properties, it is prepared as a hot drink throughout Indonesia and India, sometimes mixed with other spices.

The tree propagates easily by seed and grows fast, which makes it a great renewable and sustainable source for dye. It does not suffer from a lot of diseases or pests, and when it does this can be easily treated with natural treatments.

The dye stuff is a fragrant orange powder.

From deep reds to purples and to oranges Sappan wood is not used often enough in my opinion. Ph is key (as in most red colouring dyes).

Sappan wood is not the most light fast in the range of natural dyes so it is important mordant my protein fabrics with 20% aluminium sulphate. For cellulose feel free to use tannin, aluminium acetate, or a combination of both.

For deep reds and warm fuchsia pinks use 25% wof Sappan wood and check your Ph to be at a neutral 7. More alkaline will push the dye to purple, acidity will turn an orange.

Making a dye bath

Dissolve the Sappan wood powder in cold water and heat slowly until 80 degrees celsius, keep heated for 1-3 hours and let it cool down to 30 degrees celsius before adding protein fibres. When you put your protein fabrics directly in hot water it could damage the fibres. Re-heat to 60 degrees and let it steep like this for at least 2 hours, stir carefully every once in a while to make sure all the fabric is evenly dyed. Let cool in the dye bath.

If you want to make a second dye bath, take out the fibres, change the ph slightly for different shades and re-heat.

Use the dye bath for lighter shades for at least 2 more dye rounds. The sappan wood is a very generous dye and will be able to dye a LOT of fabric before it is exhausted.

Our Sappan wood comes from India, is organic, sustainable and a renewable dye. You can purchase it here;

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All rights reserved, copyright all images and text @Suzanne Dekel/DekelDyes

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