I have grown red hopi amaranth for seven years now and it is one of my favorite garden plants. It is beautiful and becomes a staple green for us in summer in cooked egg scrambles and salads. We also feed it to our rabbits. The seeds are abundant and easy to save. It is also a beautiful dye plant...
The thing is, to extract the dye, I have found that it cannot be heated. Stovetop dyeing will quickly turn it to a brown. This is yet another dye that benefits from gentle solar dyeing in glass jars, which is how I dye everything (except when using indigo and sometimes walnut).
Here is a page from my dye book. Only the flower heads that have already gone to seed at the end of the season offer the vibrant magenta color and it is coaxed out with the addition of vinegar. Two weeks in solar jars in the hot August sun. The leaves offer yellow. Alkaline seed dye offers orange tones.
So what about lightfastness? I am always going to bring up and test lightfastness because the lack of transparency on this topic is the most frustrating thing about the plant dye community.
Here is a test card with a variety of dyes, which I know are NOT lightfast enough for me. I think each person has different standards - either that or very few people are actually doing their own lightfastness tests.
From left: 2 avocado pit, 3 black hollyhock petal, 2 painted mountain corn husk, 2 black bean, 2 red hopi amaranth
Lightfast huh? Not really. Though honestly, I am surprised by how well the black bean did, I thought it would fade even more than it did. It didn't go grey as I expected, just a lighter version of blue.
Even the avocado pits faded considerably, especially on the 2nd yarn sample. Yes, different yarns will alter results! This is why it is so, so, so important to do your own lightfastness tests before selling products.
Again, I am not vilifying natural dyes, I adore them and will continue to use them (even amaranth) for my own projects. But I can't stress enough that lack of transparency (and testing by individual makers) could be the downfall of natural dyes for those selling products dyed with them. And that would be a shame.
More about lightfastness tests for my own work of plant dyes on wood here.
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