The parijat or coral jasmine (also known as prajakta, harsingar, shiuli, shefali, xewali etc) is ubiquitous to Indian landscapes and especially in the autumn the flowers are strewn everywhere in the early morning.
Sarala Devi’s diary (late 19th/early 20th century) records the dyeing of sarees as well as refreshing old sarees by dyeing with shiuli flowers. The dye was also used to colour ritual garments and monks robes yellow (often garments would be unbleached cotton and the like I think and materials like turmeric or parijat would give the needed auspicious yellow).
On to a recent experiment with an old saree that had a few faint yellow stains.
Luckily for me there are a fair few parijat trees where I live and they are in full bloom. The initial part of collecting the fallen flowers in the morning is the only laborious part of the flower dyeing. I forgot to measure the quantity of flowers before and after drying (bad scientist) but suffice it to say that it took a few mornings of painstaking collection, brushing away debris and adding to the drying lot to dye just the one saree.
The drying was easy given we have had dry, hot days of late.
Ideally, the stalks should be separated and used for dyeing but I took the lazier route of using the whole flower. The dried flowers were boiled in water (again no measurement, andaaze se) – the process is very sensory given the delicate but heady fragrance of the flowers. The resulting dye liquor was a deep orange (best exhibited in a wine glass:)). No doubt a stronger and more fast colour can be obtained with mordants but this sufficed for my purpose. A second extraction yielded a pale yellow which I used for smaller items like kerchiefs and threads.
The saree before with stains – it’s a simple Bengal tant (bought right after a viewing of Umbartha:)). And post a 30 minute soaking in the deep orange first dye liquor and through rinsing to remove excess dye. The final colour is a “parijat yellow” that falls more on the buttercup/primrose spectrum than the stronger turmeric/mango yellows. Happily a faint fragrance remains on the fabric.
The colour fastness is apparently medium so I am expecting a bit of fade with use. But for now I am happy with the results and look forward to wearing the saree!