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Logwood /Lignum campeche

Dyeing with logwood is a multi-stage process. Colors from blue to violet to black are possible.

The dyeing process includes staining the fabrics and preparing the wood for dyeing.

Louis Figuier, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Preparation of the fabric

The fabrics are prepared before the dyeing process. This pre-treatment is necessary so that the dye pigments can penetrate the fibers. To do this, the fabrics are pre-washed and stained.

The composition of the mordants differs slightly depending on whether the fibers are of animal or vegetable origin.

Preparation of the Logwood

The logwood is available either in the form of an extract or as wood shavings, which leave more scope for chance. The sapwood is soaked for several days and repeatedly heated before it and its brew are used for dyeing.
Any deviation in this sequence changes the resulting coloration.

Logwood splints

Soak overnight

Dyeing with logwood

The fabric is placed in the finished brew. The narrower the container, the more uneven the dyeing. The brew is heated slowly and, if necessary, other mordant ingredients are added to affect the color.

Heat the dyeing material slowly


Plus staining ingredients

The unexpected

The pH value of the dye bath, tending towards an acidic or alkaline environment, determines the final coloration. Unexpected results are desired, unpredictable, unrepeatable.
Dyeing with blue wood is an experiment with different variables to obtain unforeseen results and allow for chance.

PH value

Crepe de Chine /logwood

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What is logwood /lignum campeche?

(Source: Kremer Pigments – excerpt)

Logwood is the heartwood of the logwood or bloodwood tree Haematoxylum campechianum, a plant from the legume family. The wood smells slightly of violets. Both the bark and the sapwood are dye-free. The trees are native to Mexico (in the countries around the Campechebai in the Gulf of Mexico, hence the name) and northern South America, India, the West Indies, Jamaica, Cuba and other countries with a similar climate.

Chirocca77, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

(…) When the wood is stored, the actual colorant hematein is formed from the hematoxylin. Well-stored wood is therefore preferable to fresh wood. Nowadays, the wood is also cut into small chips, which accelerates the conversion process from hematoxylin to hematein due to the increased surface area of the wood. Hematein (…) can be obtained by boiling the wood.

The natural history of Carolina, Florida and the Bahama Islands :
London :Printed at the expence of the author, and sold by W. Innys and R. Manby, at the West End of St. Paul’s, by Mr. Hauksbee, at the Royal Society House, and by the author, at Mr. Bacon’s in Hoxton,MDCCXXXI-MDCCXLIII [i.e. 1729-1747]

Catesby, Mark, 1683-1749, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Logwood can be used for dyeing (…). Depending on the salt added, different shades of color are obtained: alum produces blue, tin violet and copper, chrome and iron produce black shades. Fabrics dyed black are very lightfast. (…)

Although fabrics could be dyed very permanently with logwood, there was a law in England in the 16th century, for example, which prohibited logwood dyeing on the grounds that the colors were not very lightfast. The truth is, however, that logwood competed strongly with the native mallow.

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