Natural Dyeing with Loquat leaves: When nature blows your mind

I took and enforced break from natural dyeing in the run up to the New Year because I had exhausted my stocks of undyed yarn to use as a base. So, it was with great anticipation that I returned to it in the New Year having ordered more yarn in the UK and having been given a totally new yarn fresh from the mill by a friend. All the anticipation in the world couldn’t have prepared me for one of the results. Prepare to be wowed…

My January test dyes were mainly about focussing on how this new yarn base, a single breed yarn blended with a little recycled nylon to make it perfect for socks, would take a range of colours to make a nice naturally dyed palette. Being January I was using mainly using materials I’d collected during the summer and dried, so things I knew had worked well enough to make me want to collect and come back to them. Not much scope for surprises here you may think and generally speaking you’d be right. But then I came across a brown paper bag of leaves.

These were leaves from a tree that I’d not dyed with before. I had only picked them up out of curiosity when collecting the leaves from the nearby persimmon tree which I know to be tannin rich and to produce nice rich mustard through to ochre colours on yarn, as I shared in this post.

Loquat Tree (and Charlie)

Loquats have tough knobbly leaves that look like they have been waxed to a shine. While evergreen the leaves do slowly turn a deep orangey yellow colour and drop. It was these dropped leaves which I’d picked up, dried off, popped in a paper bag and forgotten about. In the meantime they had turned a rather uninspiring brown.

Waxy loquats leaves with a a nicely yellowing leaf left of centre.

As a rule, with tree leaves I only ever pick up fallen leaves or collect leaves from pruned branches. Otherwise I assume that if the leaf is on the tree, the tree has a use for it and given the tree grew the leaf in the first place, its claim is greater than mine. Moreover, I know with most trees that when they’re done with them, the leaves will fall and then I can collect them and use them freely. By then the tree has got what it needs and I then get what I want, which is generally some fabulous colours. It feels like a fair deal to me.

With these experiments in January I wanted to consider how to reduce the energy impact of my dyeing practice. Even before the recent Russian invasion of Ukraine made us consider the source of our energy, climate change concerns had me keen to explore options that would avoid pots spending long periods simmering on the gas hob.

So for these experiments, including the loquat, I put the kettle on the woodburning stove, which was being used as our main source of heating in our very romantic but rather damp old house with no foundations, to heat up the water. I then poured the water over the dye materials that had been broken up and put in a large glass pickle jar, and let it sit for almost a week to release the colour.

The now browned loquat leaves that I found in the paper bag really did look pretty uninspiring at first glance, but nothing ventured, nothing gained. So I crunched them into a jar and poured on some water. Almost immediately the water began to change colour. As the colour emerged it turned the water a very strong orange colour with a red hue. I had used just 13g of dried leaf and the colour was mesmerising.

After 5 days I popped my test mini skein, which had been previously mordanted with alum, into a small pan with the decanted dye and some added water. I put this on the woodturner one evening to heat it up, left it to cool overnight and then fished it out. I was amazed by the colour and couldn’t wait for it to dry to share a picture with my friend.

Straight from the dyepot and still wet

Loquat leaves are high in tannin so in some respects it should be no surprise that they dye nicely. Some dyers have got some nice pinks from loquat leaves. What was a surprise however, was the intensity of the dye. As well as this 10g mini, from the same 13g of leaf I generated more dye by repeating the covering the leaves with hot water and letting it sit process, and used that and the exhaust from this first dye to dye a 100g skein of yarn. While not quite so intense, that 100g skein is a lovely dusky pink colour and looks great with some yellow marigold dyed yarn and purple lichen dyed yarn that I have been dyeing with a garment in mind.

I will certainly be experimenting with loquat further, with and without mordants and modifiers. As you can see above our tree isn’t the biggest, and even though a little left went a long way, I have been on the lookout in the neighbourhood for more trees. Two of our neighbours have loquats, one has 2 small trees right on their fence and the others have a huge tree close to the edge, and conveniently overhanging, their garden wall. I may already have collected a handful of dropped leaves from the latter as we walk by most days when walking the dogs….

Loquat leaf dyed mini with leaves, freshly collected at each side, and browned dried leaves as used for dyeing, top and bottom.

I’m also looking forward to the summer and trying out some of these dyes using solar dyeing methods. The sun here is strong and hopefully strong enough to warm the water through glass. i’ll let you know how I get on.

I hope that with all that is happening in the world, nature is filling you with the optimism and energy to look forward, and to act in the world with positivity. If it is, or if you’ve has some similarly striking dyeing results, please do share how in the comments below, it’s always lovely to hear from readers.

Until next time, take care,

Tess xxx

(If you want to find out more about natural dyeing, why not browse the ‘Natural Dyeing Experiments’ blog theme which has over a dozen dyeing related posts – linked in left hand sidebar and below, or hit the subscribe button to be notified when I publish new posts)

2 thoughts on “Natural Dyeing with Loquat leaves: When nature blows your mind

  1. Hello, I’ve also tried Loquat tree leaves. I used it on cotton, no mordant. First simmer gave me pink,left overnight and it turned to deep pink/brown. I let it simmer once a day and each time the colour would go to rich burgundy.After third day it went really dark and with FE afterbath it would shift to deep purple/ burgundy.I used the old leaves from the ground in March 2023 in London. It’s my fav
    dyeing plant at the moment.All the best Andrea

    1. Hi Andrea, Thanks for sharing this. The colours sound amazing. Thanks also for sharing your process, I’ll be definitely be trying to simmer and modify rather than just steep to see if I can get some of these darker richer colours. I have box of leaves under my desk so plenty of scope to experiment. Thanks so much for commenting. Tess

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