Rhubarb roots/leaves

I just put up results of rhubarb root experiment on my blog.  Am currently simmering the leaves to use as a mordant.  Has anyone used leaves and with what dyestuff?



Posted on Wed, 08/11/2010 - 15:07


I have tried using rhubarb root as a dye and got results similar to the skein on the right in your blog photo. A rather uninteresting yellowish-brown when had heard you can get red. I did not know about adjusting the pH and am thrilled to see your pinkish-red skein in the middle. I will try that someday! And the silk looks lovely too!

I have used rhubarb leaves as a mordant for wool with what I think is great success. In addition, it makes a nice soft yellow all by itself (prolonged soaking).

Thanks for sharing!


Posted on Wed, 08/11/2010 - 02:30

What did you use for dye-stuff with the rhubarb leaf mordanted wool? 

There is a great photo on the Jenny Dean website of yarn dyed using rhubarb mordant, but she doesn't say what dyeplants she was using.

Posted on Wed, 08/11/2010 - 15:21

I used the rhubarb mordant with madder, black elderberry leaves, marigold and apple leaves/bark. I did a lot of experimenting last year, just for fun and did some documenting, but took no pictures. I found that some of my colors were not light fast, but I did not have this problem with ones mordanted with rhubarb. I wove this afghan from my samples.

Posted on Tue, 08/17/2010 - 17:43

I have put up my latest dye experiments using rhubarb, oak and comfrey leaves.  The rhubarb leaf as a mordant is quite a bit darker than I thought it would be according to the book (jenny dean), so I am not sure it is suitable for all dyestuffs.


Posted on Wed, 08/18/2010 - 13:42


It is curious that you did not get a light yellow using rhubarb leaves. I always have and been pleased with the results because it is a beautiful soft yellow that gets darker with prolonged soaking. Two thoughts of how my process might have been different than yours: I used LOTS of rhubarb leaves. I did not weigh, but I'm sure it was more than 2 pounds and I dyed less than a pound of wool. I filled a canning processing container (blue enamel) as full as possible with leaves and let them soak for 24 hours, then simmered and strained, as you did. I left the small bit of stalk on the leaf. The other possible difference is the variety of rhubarb. I have "Victoria".

Please don't give up on rhubarb yet! If you have access to some more at least 12 large) leaves, try it on a 4 oz skein. 


Posted on Thu, 08/19/2010 - 02:14

I do have the other half of the rhubarb bath.  I will throw a skein in and see what happens.  That would be approx. 1 lb. of leaves to a 4oz. skein.  I think I had at least a dozen large leaves, but it wasn't a canner full, maybe half. In the Jenny Dean book she suggests a proportion of 1/1, but your proportion is much higher.  It will be interesting.

I don't know what variety of rhubarb i have but it has a very red stalk and the veins in the leaves are quite red.

Posted on Thu, 09/02/2010 - 15:51

Hi Evelyn, I actually had this book and the computer in the same place at the same time.  The author references rhubarb quite a bit and would be a good book to own for the other information in the book also.

Colours from Nature, A Dyer's Handbook by Jenny Dean

I now that she has a new book coming out soon but this older book is a solid reference and addresses some of your questions quite specifically.  take care  Deb

Posted on Sun, 09/05/2010 - 22:08

Deb - I will have to see if I can get the Colours from Nature by Jenny Dean through interlibrary loan.  I am currently using her book Wild Colours which does mention rhubarb leaves, but perhaps the other has more. 

dyeingtoweave - interesting about the use of rhubarb with cochineal. I have a tiny bit of cochineal but have been saving it until I am better informed about using it!

I have done the second skein and it is much darker than the first - which I thought it might be given the proportions.  Will get a comparison photo soon.

Posted on Thu, 09/23/2010 - 12:55

I've looked at the blog, and love seeing the new things you've done while I've been offline. I'm thinking of trying this with poke root since oxalic acid is the toxin in poke. I've also had some fun playing with pH on red top grass seed.
I too almost threw out a dyebatch that wasn't giving me what I wanted (sassafras leaves with iron), but after it sat for two weeks, I accidentally discovered that it would give the color I was after, with no other changes.

Posted on Sun, 10/10/2010 - 21:47

thanks everyone for posting your rhubarb experiments - its given me inspiration.

Has anyone tried to dry the leaves to use as mordant later? I've read something recently that suggests (but did not explicitly state) its possible.

Posted on Tue, 09/06/2011 - 15:26

I and my daughter are just getting into natural dying. I did some when I was a kid. A few weeks ago I dug up an overgrown rhubarb bed that had suffered in our heavy rains, leaving some good roots to renew the bed. During our recent storm/flood event, restless, I decided to give them a try. Chopped up the good parts of the roots into chunks and boiled them for a couple of hours. Wasn't sure about mordant, so strained it and set it aside in a jug. Lots of color left in the roots so I covered with water and boiled again. This time, I decided to drop one in of my wool yarn "samples" (I'm a beginning spindler) and let it set overnight in the cooling bath. Fished it out the next morning and washed it. It had turned into a lovely mid-yellow. A bit brassy wet, but nice and clear dry. I wondered if the oxalic acid might act as a mordant, and from what I've read here, sounds like it does. I'm going to give the first batch a try now to see what color it gives. I want to alum mordant some wool to compare.

I haven't tried rhubarb leaf yet: I need to let the plants recover, so may be next year I'll give those a try when I harvest stalks for pie.

In the meantime, my daughter and I are collecting wild and domestic dye plant materials to try out. We have no shortage of potential dye plants!

Posted on Tue, 09/06/2011 - 16:22

Welcome to the world of natural dye, it is fun, here is a link to our book thread of good books to begin with.  I think I did the link properly!  We'll see.


Posted on Tue, 09/06/2011 - 21:29

We have Rita's book, plus her "Weaver's Garden" which also has some great dye info. Two of Jenny Dean's books, including Wild Color, are on my wish list already! Now, so is Dyes from American Native Plants, which I can hardly wait to get my hands on, as this is a particular interest of mine (we are mixed blood). Today I went foraging, came home with sumac leaves and goldenrod. I am beginning to wonder when I'll get back to weaving!

Posted on Wed, 09/07/2011 - 02:02

Neshobe, the dyepot is very seducing.  It is sometimes tough to get back to the loom!  It is wonderful to see the colors and then you see another raw material and you wonder, hmmm what color will that give.  One of the best resources going on yearly is the Earth Palette Conference which is sponsored by the Taos Wool Festival.  Imagine, a whole conference room filled with dyers, who actually understand what you are trying to do.  Here's the link to the current conference coming up in late September/early October!

Posted on Sat, 09/17/2011 - 18:44

Deb, the conference in Taos sounds wonderful, and I do miss the SW so very much, it would be great to visit. Maybe next year. I'll be attending the Vermont Sheep and Wool Fest the first weekend in October, and some of us are talking about having a dye fest sometime next year, just for fun.

I have tried several time to post the results of my dye experiments with rhubarb root, goldenrod flower and alfalfa, (all very interesting, expecially the rhubarb and alfalfa, but the system keeps messing me up. I'm going to try to post as a project and see what happens. I just can't post anything with reliability on Weavolution and it is making me crazy (yes, the admins know about this and are trying to figure out why this happens to some people).

Posted on Sun, 09/18/2011 - 01:17

Hi, glad you are still trying! I agree Weavo can be very frustrating for some of us, oh well. Please try to post your photos as a project and then come back here and give us a link to the project. The nice thing about projects is that you can type descriptions in for each photo and as one goes thru the slideshow your description pops up. Give it a try, I hope that feature works for you!