I have been wanting to try out the natural dye process for years. Last year was my first attempt. I tried out some pokeweed dye, but was pretty clueless as to what I was doing and where to look for information. I used an alum and cream of tarter mordant with some linen and cotton fabrics. The color completely washed out and I was so disheartened I didn’t try again until this year when we found ourselves with an overly abundant pokeweed plant outside our house. I tried again with cotton and linen, this time using a vinegar mordant. I was able to research it a little more and understand more of what I was reading, which helped! After soaking overnight, the color still mostly washed out which made me think I wasn’t destined to use plant dyes in my lifetime (I can be a little dramatic).
So, here we are in December. I was cleaning up the garden a bit and found a mostly dead pokeweed plant with a small bunch of berries sitting on its branches. Surprised that I had found these in the month of December, I cut them all into a basket and brought them inside. I just found a giant skein of white wool yarn and had just ordered some white felt for indigo dyeing (which I’ve been doing a tiny bit of with Alana over at Tafari Designs, I’ve yet to start my own dye bath but I asked for it for Solstice) so I tried one last time with some different materials. The wool blend felt and the wool yarn took on some color and it was the exact color I wanted it to be! I now feel like I’m a wildcrafting extraordinaire and just ordered “Harvesting Color” so that I can learn more about this magic! I keep dreaming of making dolls from all hand dyed fabrics and it makes me so happy.
Odin and I went to the thrift store to find a big pot to be our dye pot. It’s like a cauldron with a handle and it makes me feel like a plant witch! We soaked the berries, mashing them with a jar and then let the water/berry mixture simmer with quite a bit of white vinegar. We had the things we meant to dye in a separate pot with enough water to cover them completely and another half bottle of vinegar. I didn’t measure too much and I probably overdid the vinegar bit, but I really wanted it to work (I needed that glimmer of hope!). After about an hour, we strained the pokeweed so we were left with just the liquid solution, then we added the wool. We let that simmer for an hour. I read allowing it to simmer for about an hour would give you more of a reddish color which is what I wanted.
After all of the stove top stuff, I set the dye pot in our garage sink to soak for 24 hours. I then let the pieces drip dry over the pot overnight. When I rinsed them out the following day, I was so happy there was some color left in the wool!
I can’t wait to learn more and actually create a technique that works for me. If anyone has any recommendations, I’d love to hear them!