Red Sorghum as a dye

Written by [email protected] on March 24, 2007 in Natural Dye Plants

Sorghum was one of the dye plants I grew last year. It grew very well on our dry southern slope. One night the wild boar came to invest it and pulled some down.

They neither ate it or returned, no doubt knowing at the first sniff that it is poisonous. Unfortunately, this year I didn't have time to work with this fascinating plant, but I have kept some seed and plan to sew it this year as a combined dye crop, shade and wind break. It is very drought resistant, its leaves contract around the stem conserving moisture as they dry.

Sorghum Harvest

The dye is found in the inside of the leaf bracts. These parts of the plant have about a 20% dye content. I would very much welcome comments and ideas from anyone with experience of working with this red dye.

Sorghum plant

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Discussions: 2 comments

Comments

Rupert

Rupert on 10/25/2009 8:30 a.m.

I am working with a group of women in Uganda who produce basketry made of millet straw and raffia. Only natural dyes (madder, turmeric, weld...) are used to dye raffia. There is plenty of sorghum in the south of Uganda and I would like to give it a try to extract a red dye from it. Do you have a recipe for it? I'm leaving for Uganda on 15Nov. Another problem we want to tackle this time is dyeing raffia with locally growing indigo which has proved very difficult so far. Any tips would be appreciated.

Best wishes, Rupert

Andie

Andie on 10/25/2009 11:29 a.m.

Hello Rupert,

Red Sorghum.. first of all you need to verify that the sorghum is the sort used for dyeing, it has red in the bracts of the leaves, where they join the stem and I believe that it is poisonous, although there are many different types of sorghum.

The dye can be extracted from the leaves by using the lye mixed with water so it is not too strong. You soak the leaves in this overnight and the next morning simmer your material in the dye liquor.

The very best of luck with your project.
Andie

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