Ratanjot Reprise, Surprise

So some of y’all may remember the ratanjot experiment, which didn’t work out so well. But I still had Ideas. I’d seen that the ratanjot (also known as alkanet, Alkanna tinctoria) does indeed turn oil red. And I remembered reading in my favorite natural dye book about Turkey red, which uses madder (another red root) with an oil-based mordant. And I thought, what if I did the oil process with pigment-infused oil? I read up on the Turkey red process, which is rather lengthy and involves rancid oil, alkaline emulsions, and optional dung. I’m forgoing the dung (you’re welcome, housemates). Otherwise, I am not one to be deterred from a project which promises to make a big mess of the kitchen. So.

I procured some rancid olive oil, and put some ratanjot in to steep. It started turning red right away.


And got redder, and redder. Here it is after one week, and after several weeks–this is as intense as the color saturation got, so I moved on to the next step, making the oil emulsion.


This, I thought, would for sure at least turn some fiber pink.

Or it could turn blue and precipitate out of solution.


Fun with home chemistry. I threw some fiber in anyway to see what happens next, and it does seem to be absorbing the color, so there is (maybe) hope.


The wool (top) is taking the color the most evenly. Cotton (middle) is quite uneven, but with the most intense saturation in sections. Silk (bottom) is taking on a slightly greenish cast.The Turkey red process that I’m modifying requires several oilings and airings, taking about a month, so it will be a while before I can really test for fastness. It’s also possible that the repeated workings will even out the color a bit. And, maybe if I do an acidic afterbath, it will shift back to red?

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