Using the saffrom flower in dyeing

The flowers of this plant contain two coloring parts: one soluble in water, and which is thrown away; the other soluble in alkaline liquors. The latter coloring part becomes the basis of various beautiful shades of cherry color, ponceau, rose color, etc. It is employed for dying feathers, and constitutes the vegetable red, or Spanish vermillion, employed by ladies to heighten their complexion.

Carthamus cannot furnish its resinous coloring part, provided with all its qualities, until it has been deprived of that which is soluble in water. For this purpose the dried flowers of the carthamus are enclosed in a linen bag, and the bag is placed in a stream of running water. A man with wooden shoes gets upon the bag every eight or ten hours, and treads it on the bank until the water expressed from it is colorless.

These moist flowers, after being strongly squeezed in the bag, are spread out on a piece of canvas extended on a frame, placed over a wooden box, and covered with 5 or 6 per cent. of their weight of carbonate of soda. Pure water is then poured over them; and this process is repeated several times that the alkali may have leisure to become charged with the coloring part which it dissolves. The liquor, when filtered, is of a dirty red, and almost brown color. The coloring part, thus held in solution, cannot be employed for coloring bodies until it is free; and, to set it at liberty, the soda must be brought into contact with a body which has more affinity for it. It is on this precipitation by an intermediate substance, that the process for making Spanish vermilion is founded, as well as all the results arising from the direct application of this coloring part, in the art of dyeing.

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