Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Pokeweed Plant Dyeing

EDIT: A year and half later - while stored in the attic - the pokeweed color has faded.  I was not surprised but I know that this post has gone around PINTREST quite a bit and I did't want anybody to think that this will be a light fast color.  It is futile color - meaning it will fade.  I am all for using these sorts of colors as long as you know about it and expect it.  In my store on etsy I sell plant dyed woo/yarn and I want you all to know I don't sell highly futile color ( like this or other berries) on my yarns and wool.  This was a great experiment and I hope you do try pokeberries this fall.

Above colors are the faded color from the ball in the below picture (darkest ball of roving and same felt swatch)  - which I find beautiful and will continue to change
Below color is what I started with.

 Pokeweed bush/plant is a wonderful color of dye to experiment with.  It gives the color you would expect with wonderful twists.  Some say its not lightfast and should not be used but I have recently read in Harvesting Color by Rebecca Burgess to try a recipe using Vinegar as a mordant and not Alum (as I have found out you only get non-lightfast tan if you use Alum and Cream of tartar).  Prepare your fiber by soaking it in a heated pot of water with a cup of vinegar - to reach Ph balance of 3.  

You only use the berries and be prepared to have pink fingers if you do not use gloves. 

 Pick all the berried off the stem and mush them in your fingers or use a potato masher.  Add a gallon or two of water and 1/2 cup of vinegar to each gallon you use.   
The pot needs to be heated gently  - Do Not Boil -  or else you will only get tan.
 I soaked the wool roving in the dye pot for a few hours and then let it drain into the pot as it dried.  The liquid can be used for all sorts of shades of pinks/purples.

 Then I rinsed the roving after a few hours of resting.  It then turned more purple than pink after the rinsing.  This color just blew me away.

The pinker roving was from a different pokeweed bush so as in all plant dyeing it will depend on where you get the plant and what kind of season the plant had.  Now is the time to harvest - if the birds haven't beaten you too it.  Its all a wonderful gift.  Hopefully with time I can see that it is as lightfast.  
** Please read the top of this page to see the color fastness test.


Theresa said...

Love it! Pokeweed is all over the river path in sacramenot! We were just talking about gathering some!

maskitit said...

What a wonderful purple!
My kids love picking the berries, finally I can put them to good use...
Thank you for sharing your experience, you are a great inspiration!

Anonymous said...

and a year later, how does it look? i made my sister something i died with poke berries(not your recipe) and its a lovely shade of grey... still pretty but not what it started out to be....

Anonymous said...

that would be *dyed* lol

Jayme Alexander said...

How do you keep it from changing color? Someone at the fabric store told me to add salt to the liquid from the berries + water mixture but I haven't tried it myself yet? Any ideas?

Lisa larsen said...

Are you not worried how poisionous it is? I would love to know more since I know two ripe berries if ingested can kill a child.

Kate Henry said...

It makes a good wine, which isn't poisonous. The raw wood, bark and sap ARE poisonous, and gave me an astounding horrid reaction when a dead branch got stabbed into my hand. By the way, X-ray and MRI will NOT see wood buried in your body. Ultrasound WILL. Two months after surgery to remove said branch, my hand is still red, swollen and painful. I declined to drink the wine.