Alkanet gives beautiful moody purples but is only moderately lightfast.
Alkanet, Alkanna tinctoria, is also known as dyer’s alkanet or dyer’s bugloss and is an herb in the borage family. The roots produce a red/purple dye. Do not be swindled by plants that are closely related in the borage/bugloss family and are also called alkanet, like Anchusa Officinalis (Common Blugloss). You can easily find ‘alkanet’ seeds or plants of Anchusa officinalis and other related plants, but these plant’s roots will not contain any dye or any dye amount worth using. I have seen these seeds for sale on reputable sites, being sold as dye plants. Don’t be fooled….they are not. The true alkanna tinctoria seed is hard to find, and I have not been able to get ahold of it.
True alkanna tinctoria plants are low, trailing, sprawling plants, kind of fuzzy looking, with blue flowers like the anchusa officinalis, but the centers of the flowers are dark, not white. I would love to be able to find true alkanna tinctoria seeds to grow for the roots, and hopefully some day I will.
Powdered alkanet root can be mixed with oil and used as a wood stain. Alkanet is used in Indian food under the name Ratan Jot and gives the red color to the curry dish Rogan Josh.
The alkannin dye in the roots is not soluble in water, so you need to soak the dye stuffs in alcohol, ether, vodka or oil (oil if you are using this for cosmetics or soap) overnight, before adding to a dye pot and simmering. Alkanet root produces beautiful red/purples, lavenders and grays with moderate lightfastness. The last time I dyed with Alkanet, I decided to try to not over-heat the dye bath and not go over 140 degrees.
Use 75-100% dried alkanet to the weight of fiber that you are dyeing.
The experimenting I’ve done with ground alkanet powder, gave me a really intense purple in the first bath, and then grays afterwards, but I used less than 75-100% WOF. When I used the flaked, dried alkanet root, I got a less intense purple with more grayness on the first skein and afterbaths yielded gray. Again, I used less than 75-100% WOF, because I tend to only be exact with my mordants and when I’m experimenting with sample skeins that I will show as samples, I tend to put in the dyepot, what looks like visually a reasonable amount that is 1 or 2oz, because I want to show customers what colors they can expect on a skein of yarn without using a large, or expensive amount of dyestuffs.