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.

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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.

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

Or it could turn blue and precipitate out of solution.

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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.

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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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