Friday, November 7, 2014

The Dye That Named a Country

When the Portuguese explorers came to the Americas for gold and spices, they never thought they would also find a dye material that would eventually become the name of a South American country.
The area of the New World was originally named  Island of the True Cross.
But later, around 1510, a Lisbon merchant began commercial harvesting of a local tree that produced a red and pink dye.
The region then became referred to by the name of the commercial product, which was a common habit of the time.
Thus the country name of Brazil was born, from the dyestuff called brazilwood, which became an important and highly valued dye in Europe.

Brazilwood Chips, Caesalpinia sappan

Because of the demand, Brazilwood, Caesalpinia echinata, or Pernambucco tree became over harvested not only because of it's imporance as a dye, but also because of it's use in violin making.
It is now listed as an endangered plant of Brazil

In the 1700's, another species of the tree , Caesalpinia sappan, found in Asia, began to replace the brazilwood from South America. 
Also know as sappenwood, this is the brazilwood natural dye that we use today.

Both varieties of brazilwood were used for inks and colors used in the  European Medieval illuminated manuscripts.

Wool Yarn , Mordants Left to Right: Alum, Tin, Chrome, Iron

 Brazilwood produces beautiful reds and pinks on wool, linen , and cottons, depending on the mordant used, water PH, and strength of the dye. 
Use of a mordant is required, but even then the dye can fade with exposure to sunlight.
However, one will not be disappointed in adding this dye to your palate of natural dyes.

Brazilwood Sawdust with Dyed Wool Yarn

Brazilwood, along with other dyes and mordants, are available from our website.

                                               © 2014 Brush Creek Wool Works

No comments:

Post a Comment