Monday, October 27, 2008

Inkberry Dyeing

Recently I was really inspired by some wool that Falathwen had dyed with pokeberries, which I had always grown up knowing as inkberries. With such readily available, and generally unwanted materials, this seemed like genius! She had gotten a gorgeous red color, though magentas and mauve are also pretty typical results. The really interesting part of this natural dye-good is that there are so many conflicting instructions on how to do it.

But here is what I did:
  • Picked ~4 cups berries (picked off the stems)
  • Boiled in a quart of white vinegar for 30 minutes
  • Mordanted 8 oz wool with alum (just enough water to fully wet
  • Squeezed berries with cheese cloth to have just a dye bath without floating bits
  • Leave wool in vinegar/berry bath with all of mordanted water for a week
As an aside, please buy Heinz vinegar if you are in the market for white vinegar. Most of the vinegar you find at the store is made from petroleum products, rather than renewable sources, but Heinz is not.

Another piece of advice is to wear gloves. Getting the pink color off you hands isn't a big deal when it is just juice, but the hot vinegar/berry mixture does not go away for a couple days... Don't ask me how I know.
After rinsing, the 4 oz of white roving I had (some additional un-dyed corriedale on the right) from Misty of Geek Farm Life, I had a fabulously vivid magenta.

Lucy of Mind's Eye Yarns (and her etsy shop) had once talked to me about how if you want a really true red, your best bet was to start with a golden base yarn, rather than a while or ivory one. I tucked that thought away for a while, but this was totally the moment to give it a try.

I am ever so very pleased with the resulting 4 oz of worsted wool I over-dyed from a deep amber. Chiquita helped too, and even she thought this was pretty neat. We may have to go hunting more berries before the season is over.



Blogger Carolyn said...

I love your results...especially the amber.
Someone suggested making a swatch test to test the light-fastness of various ink-berry dye processes, since that tends to be the main draw back for this plant as a dye.
If I have any yarn left over from my socks I will do that.

27/10/08 10:13 PM  
Blogger Jessica C said...

Oh my goodness! They are beautiful. Wow. I'm in awe :)

27/10/08 10:16 PM  
Blogger Julie said...

Common names for plants are much like accents, each region has it's own. I grew up knowing it as pokeberry as well. It's poisonous when eaten so I'd be doubly sure to wear gloves just to be on the safe side. Did you know they called it inkberry because the Declaration of Independence was written with it's juice? The things you learn in plant taxonomy ;) (Gorgeous color btw!)

28/10/08 6:34 AM  
Anonymous Robbyn said...

Oh awsome! You got really beautiful results - such splendid, saturated colors!

But a week? Yikes!

28/10/08 10:05 AM  
Blogger Lucy said...

That's gorgeous! I love the red and the fuschia is amazing!

28/10/08 11:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Over-dyeing yellow! Brilliant. I'll file that away in a nook in my brain.

28/10/08 2:50 PM  
Blogger Nathalie said...

gorgeous! what an inspiration you are!

5/11/08 4:23 PM  
Anonymous tajniwolf said...

I've stumbled across this article after two years, it seems.

I'm curious as to what color the pokeberry-dyed wool has faded to. Some sources say that it fades to a bit of a light brown, others say a rust color.

Do you still have it?

28/6/10 5:08 PM  

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