Alkanet – alkanna tinctoria or dyer’s alkanet is a very attractive purple colourant that is found in the roots of plants belonging to the borage family. These grow uncultivated throughout central Europe and extend as far as central Asia and North Africa. The extracted pigment is often used as a colourant for cosmetics and soaps. The violet colourant from alkanet is not soluble in water.
Before a dyebath is made the alkanet root must be soaked in a solution of alcohol and hot water – colourless rubbing alcohol or methylated spirits can be used (some dyers who do not like the smell of either of these solvents use vodka!). The colours produced on mordanted fabric and yarns are shades of grey, lavender and purple when using 75-100% dried alkanet to wof. The colours achieved are beautiful but have moderate light fastness.