Natural Dyeing: Chokeberry

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I recieved a book about natural dyeing for Christmas. The book contains recipes of how to dye natural fibers with left-overs from the kitchen (a.k.a compost) and also with plants common in Sweden. I read the book and it amazed me how the colours and prints on textiles and fibers are such a big part of knitting and sewing, still I haven’t really given the consequences of it a thought. The author mentions that black it one of the most chemical heavy/toxic colours to dye as it requires so much dye, and at the same time it is probably the most common colour in my wardrobe. Black is also the colour that washes out the fastest, making the piece of clothing looking dull and less attractive to wear.

Several of the dye recipes in the book are not colourfast either, like the recipe for turmeric. The reason for this is avoiding using any strong chemicals for the mordant-baths, the only mordants used are salt, vinegar and alum. And since you dyed the fiber or fabric yourself, you can just dye over it again when the colour is too washed out.

The book made me eager to try dyeing and I have already started collecting pomegranate peels and avocado pits. One day when I walked to school, I spotted some Chokeberry bushes that, according to the book, would give purple to brownish tones. Since it is in the middle of the winter, the berries where soft and mushy. It also had a faint smell of yeast.

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I picked out some left-over wool/alpacka yarn from my stash. I washed it and boiled it for an hour in a pot with water and vinegar. At the same time I also boiled mashed berries in water. After I had removed all peels with a sifter, the wool was put in the dye and boiled for an additional hour.

The morning after I took out the yarn from the dye, gently rinsed it and hung it up to dry. The colour I ended up with was not purple, but a beautiful walnut shade. I wonder if this is a winter shade of Chokeberry, I will have to try again this autumn with fresh berries and compare the results.

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