Blackberry shoots, Alder bark, Rhubarb leaves and indigo

plant and natural dye experiments



Any chance you can post this photo in a project and put a link to that project in this forum to it?  Putting it in a project allows folks to get a closeup look at your hard work.  Could you add the mordant and method of preparing the dyestuff, such as chopping, simmering, fermenting?  Don't worry about indigo prep....we should all know it is documented out there, it is the shoots, bark and leaves that beginners need help on! thank you for sharing, don't worry if time does not allow, thought I would ask  Deb


Here are some notes on the process that works for me. I am in the Pacific Northwest, and have been looking for uses for invasive plants. One big offender is a vigorous blackberry plant which crowds out the native plants. Blackberry shoots were harvested in spring, when the bases had a deep purple tinge. This is an invasive plant in our area, so I used them to make a grey dye using chopped sprouts about 1/2inch diameter and 8 to 12 inches long. Cooked for 40 min in water to cover, and cooled overnight. After straining out all plant material, I added pre-mordanted (with 7per cent alum by weight) hand spun romney rams wool, brought up to 140F, then held at that temperature for an hour and cooled overnight. Resulting color was a very nice pale peach, but as I was interested to see what would happen, I added a big handful of scrap iron, and brought it back up to 140F, cooked for an hour and cooled overnight. The iron was not in direct contact with the wool, but remained in the pot. Wool turned a lovely, rich grey, with a very slight loss of softness. 

The rhubarb was quite straighforward, I gathered 8 ounces (weight) of fresh leaves and with the least amount of water possible, pulverised them in a blender that I use only for preparing dye materials. The fresh, bright green this produced was amazing and looked quite strong. After straining out as much of the plant material as possible, I soaked eight ounces of scoured wool (no mordanting) for two days without heating. The resulting pale green wool remained soft, and the rhubarb leaves also act as mordant if you wish to continue to work with more colors over the pale green.