The world of Natural dyes is infinite, and it starts in your own backyard!
Blackberries are quite nice and lightfast, and also very abondant in some parts of Canada. They are also quite surprising as the color keeps evolving during the dye process.
This dye process I am describing is very basic and simple, and also a good and inexpensive start to dyeing your own wool.
Don't be afraid of experiment with different proportions, but also with modifiers (i.e. Iron liquor ) and even with different fibers. To my humble self, the easiest fiber to dye is wool. But silk and cotton can also be very interesting...
BEFORE YOU START : Make sure your wool is mordanted... more in the next step...
Step 1: Tools & Equipment
- Stainless steel pot (or unchiped enamel pot) NO aluminium as this may affect the color.
- Dishwashing gloves (it's good if they are thick as the water will be hot)
- Wooden stick/spoon (or anything you can stir with)
- Strainer. It can be cheese cloth, a paint mesh (this is what I use), etc.
- Plastic or glass container that acts as your measuring cup... (For example, I gathered my blackberries in a 1 litre mason jar.)
- Hand-held blender (I find blending the berries maximises the color extraction, but it is not mandatory)
- PH test strips (To test the water PH )
- Blackberries (For my recipe, I used about 1 litre)
- Water ( The water should be at a PH of about 7, the test strips can be found in pĥarmacies, hardware store, gardening centers, or on internet. You can also use bottled water or rain water...)
- Love, care and patience
Step 2: Extracting the Color (Preparing the Dye Pot)
I find a 1: 3 ratio of berries to water works well
(If you found PH strips, now is a good time to test the water!)
- Pour all about 1 litre of berries into your dye pot. (If you have a blender, this is the moment to use it!)
- Put 3 litre of water in the pot (while pouring you can clean the tip of your handblender, no waste ! )
- Turn on your stove to medium and heat the berry/water mix for about 45 minutes, making sure it doesn't simmer or boil. This would affect the color.
If it starts to thicken (too much water evaporated) just add a little bit of water.
- After the 45 minutes, off the stove and let cool down for a while.
- Strain the juice so that no berries are left.
You now have a wonderful dye bath !
Step 3: Dyeing the Yarn
When the dye pot is at room temperature,it is ready to be used.
You will find out that the color evolves very much over time... At first, the color is orange/red, then it turns to a bright and vivid purple-pink, and when the skeins are rinsed and dried, you get a soft and gorgeous blue as a result.
Mordant your wool yarn
Also make sure to mordant your yarn beforehand, as it helps the fiber retain the dye.
(The yarn we used was mordanted with Alum at a 15% concentration.)
- Your yarn needs to be wet, so make sure you let it soak in water for minimum of 1 hour.
- With your gloves on, put your yarn in the dye pot, gently pressing the yarn to fully soak it with berry dye.
- Turn on the heat to medium, and leave it on for about 30-45 minutes, stirring every once in a while to assure even coloration of the yarn. Again, make sure it doens't simmer or boil, as Blackberry Dye is affected by over heating.
- Let the whole thing cool down before taking out the yarns.
- Let the skeins air-dry our of direct sunlight without rinsing them, as this help better color fixation
- The next day, rinse the yarn in lukewarm water. To do this, you can do repetitive soaks in clean water until the water runs clears.
- Let air-dry out of direct sunlight.