There are more than seven hundred types of eucalyptus, and only fifteen of them occur outside of Australia. For those who live close to long-established imported eucalyptus, as we do in California, the bark is easily collectible; many eucalyptus trees shed their bark naturally and in large quantities.
All parts of the eucalyptus tree can be used to make lightfast and washfast dyes that work well on all fibers. Potential colors range from yellow and orange through green, tan, chocolate, and deep rusty red. The material remaining after processing the eucalyptus can also be used safely as a mulch or garden fertilizer.
Certain varieties of eucalyptus leaves are known for making brilliant shades of coral, orange, and deep reds, but I have also come to deeply appreciate the eucalyptus tree’s abundant and beautiful bark for an easy, no-fail way of creating natural blacks. The black dyes used in synthetic dye production are often very toxic and at the same time difficult to stabilize, so being able to make black easily and readily from a safer, organic source is a gift.
Eucalyptus bark carries lots of potent tannins that help the dye bind to both plant-based and animal-based fibers. With iron added, the eucalyptus bark dye goes from caramel to inky gray, blue, and black.
This recipe is for blacks and silvery dark grays on rayon rope to make a twisted fabric necklace.
- 8 ounces eucalyptus bark, shredded in
- 2-3-inch pieces 1 yard rayon rope (8 ounces)
- pH-neutral soap
- 1 teaspoon iron powder
- Heat- and water-resistant gloves
- Dust mask
- Small stainless steel pot with lid
Clean and soak your eucalyptus bark to remove any dirt or other residue from foraging.
Wash your rayon rope with pH-neutral soap and then soak in lukewarm water (scouring isn’t necessary).
Fill a small stainless steel pot two-thirds full of water, add your cleaned and shredded eucalyptus, and bring to a low boil. Lower the heat and gently simmer the bark for 30 minutes to 1 hour until the dye liquid is a rich caramel brown.
Wearing a dust mask, stir in the iron powder. Your caramel eucalyptus bark dye bath will now be inky black. Strain the eucalyptus bark out of the dye bath and set the liquid back on low heat and add the lid.
Twist and wrap your rope into a necklace of desired length and then add it to the dye bath.
Gently simmer your rayon rope for at least 20 minutes. When the desired color is obtained, remove the material or, for a darker color, turn off the heat and let it steep in the dye bath overnight.
Rinse the dyed rayon rope with pH-neutral soap. Hang it to dry out of direct sunlight.
Your eucalyptus bark necklace is ready to wear!