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Oak, Rhubarb and Comfrey Leaves

August 16, 2010

Fresh green  leaves of the Bur Oak (Quercus macrocarpa).    300 grams of fresh oak leaves simmered and left overnight, then strained resulting in a lovely dark brown dye bath.    According to recipes mordant isn’t necessary as the oak has it’s own mordant,  tannic acid.

Two skeins of wool, one white, one natural grey, simmered for approximately one hour and left to soak overnight.

I then read about rhubarb leaf being a good mordant with a high oxalic acid content.  I simmered 2 lbs. of leaves and left them to soak overnight, strained out the leaves.  I used half this liquid for 5 skeins of wool –  3 skeins natural white  and 2 skeins natural grey wool.   The colour described in books was a light yellow which came out  beige and darker than anticipated.

I also tried a bath of comfrey leaves which came out a very light green.  The proportion of comfrey leaves to wool was 2/1.

The oak leaves were also about a 2/1 dyestuff to wool proportion, but  I think for a darker brown I might try an even higher proportion of leaves.  Overall I am not impressed with the rhubarb  as a mordant – it is so dark  though it might help with other orangey colours.    The comfrey leaves were a disappointment and I will overdye or modify  those with iron and copper.  All the baths were ph adjusted to approximately 8 but rinsed in the regular water here which is about ph 5-6.

I have a bath of rudbeckia flowers simmering,  staghorn sumac  and rown ready for the dyepot, but must wait for a supply of alum and cream of tartar for the next experiments.   All very beige, brown and yellow so far, maybe the elder and mahonia berries will add something different.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. August 17, 2010 3:09 am

    Do you grow all of the things that you are using in your garden? It’s interesting to see the delicate shades of color that you are achieving. I’m looking forward to seeing more!


  2. August 17, 2010 3:10 am

    Such interesting colors compared to what they list. Pretty though and sure sounds like you are having fun. I think the comfrey is rather pretty, soft but pretty.


  3. Evelyn Oldroyd permalink
    August 17, 2010 7:30 am

    Judy – I am using stuff from my mother’s and my garden as well as barks and berries from the wild part of my property, just to see what colours I can get and it has been fun.

    Theresa – I like the comfrey as well, just wish it had a bit more depth. I will try it again with an alum mordant to see if it takes better.


  4. August 18, 2010 4:17 am

    What a beautiful combination of colors. I’d have to put them on some sort of favs list. I’m delighted to see that I have all of those growing here. Someday (maybe next summer) I’m going to have to do a “Homestead Dyeing” project!


  5. August 20, 2010 6:30 pm

    It’s wonderful the way natural colored dyes have a harmony with one another. I look forward to the next batches. What will you do with all these yarns?


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