Natural Dyeing with Gorse

Kathryn Davey

March 22, 2023

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natural dyeing
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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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Natural dyeing with Gorse flowers

A robust spring dye plant

Natural dyeing with Gorse flowers is beautiful in every way, except for the high possibility of getting stabbed by the sharp thorny branches! So be careful if you decide to go and forage for this glorious source of natural dye.

This time of year the mountains of Dublin are laden with this intoxicating shrub. If you can get up close, its scent carries the promise of summer on its notes. This prolific plant is easy to spot with its thorny branches, vibrant yellow flowers that blossom in Spring. Its perfume fills the air with a sweet-smelling coconut aroma & carries promises of warmer days ahead.

Blossoming from March to August, flowers bloom on different species throughout the year. The flowers provide a healthy supply of pollen for bees & the prickly bushes provide a safe habitat for wildlife.

A heritage plant

In Celtic tradition, gorse was associated with the Celtic god of light, love & fertility and was one of the sacred woods burned on the Beltane bonfires. As it catches fire easily & burns well, it was a preferred choice of fuel for many early bakers in Ireland. Due to its high oil content gorse was used as tinder & fuel. The ashes, high in alkali content, were mixed with animal fat to make soap or used to improve the soil.

natural dyeing with gorse

What colours should I expect?

In natural dyeing with Gorse, the flowers were used as a source of yellow dye, while the shoots give shades of green & brown. If you are going to dye with Gorse, be sure to separate the flowers from the stems, a task that will take you some time! You can get yellow directly from the dye pot & a range of shades when adding modifiers to the equation. A modifier is an ingredient that you add to modify or change the colours. As you can see from the photo above, shades of yellow, to orange, through green, grey and brown are possible. The colours are rich & varied making it easy to see how this was a common dye source in early dyeing. If you would like to see detailed notes on how to create a range of colours from gorse flowers be sure to check out my monthly membership ‘The Colourway’.

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