Friday, May 15, 2009

Second dye attempt - buckthorn berries

I know that buckthorn berries from another species of buckthorn were used to make a yellow wool dye in past centuries, so I decided to see what I could do with the buckthorn berries from our local park, after they'd fermented on the trees all winter.

I collected them while everything was still frozen and stored them in the freezer until I was ready to use them (a few weeks).

Following the general tips in Rita Buchanan's book, I put the berries into a gallon ziploc bag and smashed it gently with a rubber mallet to break up the skins. Then I put the berries in an empty cottage cheese container with just enough water/vinegar mixture to cover them (4 parts water to 1 part vinegar). I left the container on the kitchen counter for a week - I was worried there would be a strong fermented smell, but it never got bad, certainly not as strong as when we're fermenting to make beer or wine!

After one week, I tested the pH using my red cabbage strips; it was definitely in the acidic range, but I can't easily get more specific than that:

Buckthorn Berry Dye PH

Then, it was time to dye! I heated the dyebath to a simmer and added my wool. I let it simmer for about an hour, then left the dyepot to cool for the day. The dyebath wasn't a color that would make my list of favorites, but at least it showed some promise:

Buckthorn berry dyepot

Unfortunately, when I pulled the wool out and rinsed it, all I got was a very pale, muddy yellow brown. I'll try overdying it with dandelions or garlic mustard something and see what I can do with it... guess buckthorn berries (Rhamnus cathartica species) aren't going on my list of favorite local dyestuffs! Would have been nice to use that invasive pest for something...

Buckthorn dyed wool

Buckthorn dyed wool closeup