Dyeing with eucalyptus leaves Part 4

Simmer Dyeing Part 2

Most eucalyptus leaves will yield a range of golden-brown to red-brown colours without using any additional mordant.  As mentioned in a previous article, the colours are fast in protein fibres such as wool and silk. To extend the colour range, different mordants in the form of additives or containers, or both, can be used.

Here are the results of my experimentation to date, all use the simmer dye technique:

Yellow to gold

Add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of alum to a neutral container, then the leaves and water.


Add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of alum to a neutral container, then the leaves and water and a piece of copper.  Red Ironbark leaves give an apricot colour with this method.

Rich red-brown

This depends on the type of tree the bark comes from, but generally a good coloured sap indicates the colour of the bark.  Red Ironbark (e. sideroxylon) bark and sap, and leaves and pods from the Mottlecah (e. macrocarpa) yield an excellent red-brown dye.  Remember to add leaves as a mordant for the bark.  I have found dyes from these materials will also  produce a  thick print paste.


This is a difficult area, as my most successful greens have been achieved using a Michael Lax for Copco Danish cast iron saucepan that I bought from a local antique store.  As mentioned previously, the range is no longer in production but sometimes comes up on Ebay or other antique/collectible sites (NOT the enamel coated range.)  I’ve experimented with other cast iron containers but the resulting colour is usually grey to black.

The dye method is proceed as for yellow/gold dye, then transfer the dye only to the cast iron container with another 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of alum.  It’s important to add more alum to the second dye bath to keep the colours bright and clear.  Once the dye reaches the simmer stage, keep an eye on the fabric as it can change from acid yellow to lime to green to black-green in a short time!  Red Ironbark leaves produce the most acid yellows to lime greens though other leaves such as the Lemon Scented Gum (e. citriodora) yields an attractive range of olive greens.

Grey to Black

Add leaves and water to a tin container and add a piece of copper to the dyebath.  The resulting colour will be silver grey to black.  This method can also produce a good black print paste.  A cast iron container can be used instead of the tin and copper combination, but the resulting colour is more iron  to purple grey, depending on the quality of the iron and the variety of leaves.

Solar Dyeing is discussed in the next article.


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Artist in Adelaide, South Australia. I enjoy viewing and participating in street art and experimenting with photography for surface design.

2 thoughts on “Dyeing with eucalyptus leaves Part 4”

  1. Thank you for sharing your findings! I have also had yellow dyed cotton turn deep forest green when added to rust bath… containing assorted rusty bolts, also a very old, scaly rust wheel hub… but other attempts to produce that green have landed with more of a grey tinge. Perhaps time in the rust… or some other unknown wild cards 🙂

  2. How interesting Jaime, thank you for your comments. Maybe the forest green from rust is similar to verdigris? So whatever turns the fabric green wears off after the initial dyeing. I can only achieve lime greens from two of the many e. sideroxylon trees in the local area, the other ones don’t work at all, so maybe there is some unique chemistry in the leaves as well?

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