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Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Olive Leaves

After trimming my olive tree recently (long overdue), I pared off the bark for the February dyeing project on my natural dye calendar and put it in a jar with water to soak for a while. Rather than throw away the leaves, I decided to make another dye with those.

It took flipping ages picking all these leaves off the branches.  When I got to 500g, I thought I'd probably got enough and put the rest on the bonfire pit.

I'd read that it can take 3-4 hours boiling to extract the colour from olive leaves, and this proved quite accurate.  I'm not sure how long they actually cooked for, because I did it over about 3 days, but it was at least 4 hours, probably more.  The resulting dye looked quite promising :-

but I realised I would probably only get a pale yellow (or the dreaded beige) from this.  I strained the leaves and added 100g of Cotswold fleece, hoping I'd get more colour if I used a smaller amount of fleece.  I didn't use a mordant (with hindsight, possibly I should have) because I thought there would be a fair amount of tannins in there.  Obviously not, as this is what came out :-

It is yellow, but very very pale.  I admit to being rather disappointed with it.  Not to be defeated, I tried dunking some of it in a vinegar/water solution, and another piece in ammonia/water.  The vinegar didn't seem to do much (left on the photo below), but the ammonia did the business (right) - I'm happy with this yellow.

I know this is still wet, but I think it will still be quite a nice colour when it dries.  The rest of the fleece was dunked into the ammonia solution, and I'm quite pleased with the outcome.  Mission accomplished!

And . . . it's not beige!


  1. Spun up it will be even brighter.

  2. Hi,how do you obtain ammonia solution?

    1. I bought a bottle of household ammonia and added a splash to enough water to soak the fleece. You could use washing soda instead though.