The Dream of the Blue Turtle Beans Part One

I hope Sting forgives me for borrowing part of the title of his album. All shall be made clear.

Been working pretty much solidly for the last couple of days on sorting out the back garden and the garden shed which had become unusable over the years. I am happy to report that I can actually walk into it and find things again as well as make things and put dye pots and such somewhere other than in the house or out in the back garden.

Was soaking turtle beans for dinner, when I got a comment to one of my blog articles from a lovely lady on WordPress who, I discovered has been making blue colours with black beans, I know these as turtle beans.

I do a 24 hour soak with some Braggs apple cider vinegar splashed in before I cook them and make the best refried beans south of the northern hemisphere! I’ve been chucking the soaking water out for some time. After learning about making a dye with the beans I thought I would collect the bean soaking water and give the turtle bean or black bean dyeing a go. Had a quick internet search about doing this sort of dyeing. Asked this same WordPress friend about the importance of using Alum as opposed to nothing or vinegar. Determined that I would try all three things and document them. Seems the ph (definition of ph here) of the water determines what colour you get from the bean water too. You can get some amazingly nice blues, but you can also get greens and magentas from what I have read in other peoples documentation.

I’ve usually used vinegar as the mordant when I am dyeing things or in the case of the woad, stale urine but I do have alum too. I thought I would go with white vinegar for the first trial.

I strained the bean soaking water (which is distilled water with a splash of Braggs apple cider vinegar and the bean juice)and put it into an Ikea jar. The water doesn’t look very inspiring. Sort of a murky purple grey black.

Meanwhile I soaked some merino wool top in tap water with vinegar for about 20mins. Then I gently squeeze the vinegar out of the wool and have put it into the bean juice and closed up the lid. I guess its going to ferment. I wasn’t really expecting a blue because of the acid ph from the vinegar.


So what colour did I get in I the 48 hour period?
Well, I got a grey, It’s grey out in the daylight and purple grey bordering on lilac in the artificial light see the pictures below. I suspect when it is spun the colour will be more apparent.

Ok so the earth didn’t move for me. It was a test using vinegar which I couldn’t find any tests for in regards to turtle beans and I now know what happens. The next test when I am next soaking beans will be with alum prepared wool.




5 thoughts on “The Dream of the Blue Turtle Beans Part One

  1. Oh I only now realized that you posted this! Interesting, it seems like mordanting with alum is a quite important part of the process. I was also wondering if the wool maybe was a bit greasy? Apparently washing greasy wool with soap also helps the colour to stick better. Interesting to see your next post. šŸ™‚


    1. I am pretty sure that the Alum is important. The wool was very clean. When I am soaking my next lot of beans I will make sure the wool is mordanted with Alum šŸ™‚ I might get some more colour then. You look to have some really lovely natural colours.


      1. Yeah that does sound like alum is the key. šŸ™‚ And thank you. I finally managed to get some sky blue from the black beans, but I’m still not quite sure how it happened. šŸ˜€


  2. I have managed sky blue too, but alum is certainly needed. Even so, the blue faded to grey with washing. Many people find superwash wool takes the colour much better than non superwash. I went with sock yarn šŸ™‚


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s