…so of course that means it’s time for dye experiments! We decided to play around with ratanjot, a plant we encountered a lot in the Himalayas.
Nisha has some to use on her hair, so we’re working with that. Ratanjot turns out to be alkanet, which is familiar from my dye books. Unfortunately, I didn’t pack any of them, so we’re just working with what we can find on the internet. First things first: mordanting the wool. We needed to obtain alum. At home, if I want to do a small experiment, I’ll just pop down to the grocery store and get a little jar in the spice section. Here…we tried the grocery store with no luck. So we took an auto (a little 3-wheeled putt-putting thing) to a temple supply shop. We waited in between baskets of turmeric root and shelves stacked with incense while a shop employee looked for alum in the back. He returned holding a big crystal of the stuff. Okay…we asked if they had it as a powder, and he went and sat on the floor of the stockroom pounding it with a rock.
Next: extracting the dye from the bark. We learned that the pigment is not water soluble, and is usually extracted with alcohol. One blog we looked at said that with alcohol extraction, the results were all brown (oh, yay). But just grinding it to a paste and boiling in water gave purples (oh, yay!). So we decided to try that. The directions said to make a paste and let it sit overnight, then add more water and heat to make the dye bath. The next morning we simmered the wool in the dye for a while. The power went out a couple times during the process, but the dye bath stayed pretty hot. When we squeezed out the wool to see what was happening, it looked disappointingly like a slightly bluish gray, but under brighter light it was definitely purplish. We were hoping to try an acidic afterbath to see if we could shift the color to a more reddish purple, but my cab was already waiting to take me to the airport. Nisha will continue the experiment and let me know what happens.
So, as usual for me, further research is necessary. Trying the alcohol extraction, seeing if I can grow the plant at home (it’s related to borage, so possible). Also, people here put it in oil to use on their hair, and it turns the oil an intense red. So I’m wondering about some sort of oil mordanting process, maybe similar to making Turkey red. (I say that as if I have a clue what I’m talking about.) Rah Rah Ratanjot!