Natural Dyeing with Eucalyptus

Kathryn Davey

March 14, 2023

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I’m a author, self-taught designer & natural dyer sharing the beauty of natural dyes and plant based colour with anyone that's interested :) 

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Hi, I'm kathryn

Last April I did some extensive natural dyeing experiments with Eucalyptus. An easily accessible natural dye source, originating from the myrtle family & native to Australia, Tasmania, New Guinea & Indonesia. Historically the bark of the eucalyptus was a popular choice in the making of many common & household objects. The eucalyptus is a sacred tree to the Aboriginal people and the wood of choice for their well-known didgeridoo. While the bark & resin can be used medicinally to treat fevers & common respiratory problems.

With over 700 known species of eucalyptus, the bark can range from smooth to fibrous, with oil-producing leaves of different shapes & fruit that grow in a woody capsule shape.

Introduced to Europe in the 18th century & America in the mid 19th Century, today this fast-growing tree can be found throughout the world. It has habituated to the extreme climates of freezing alpine regions & barren deserts landscapes.

Natural Dyeing with Eucalyptus

As a source of natural dye, the leaves, bark, seeds & twigs can be used to create a beautiful range of natural colours. For my Colourway experiments, I extracted dye from the leaves, branches & fruit (also called gum nuts) of the Gunnii eucalyptus below.

Depending on the species, location & time of year, the colours possible are varied & diverse. The strength of your colours is based on the amount of dyestuff & time. So the more plant matter you use and the longer you leave your fibre to soak in the dye, the stronger your colours will be.

As you can see from the photo above, the shades can range from soft yellow to dark graphite. With the addition of modifiers (a modifier is an ingredient that can changes or modify the colours), you can expand the colour possibilities & create a diverse natural palette from one plant. As eucalyptus is available throughout the year, it is a wonderful source of natural colour & definitely one I would recommend you try.

If you would like to more about sources of natural colour take a look at my monthly ‘Colourway’ membership. Each month I share how to create natural colours from a variety of seasonal dye sources.

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