Red Cabbage and Pokeberries

Both red cabbage and pokeberries produce beautiful red shades. The problem is, as it is so often, colorfastness. Items dyed with pokeberries quickly fade in light. I read in a contemporary book, Harvesting Color, however, that mordanting pokeberries with vinegar makes the dye colorfast. A modern dyer experimented with pokeberries until she found a method that works. I have yet to try this but plan to this fall.

The recipe included in this book is:

Ratio of 25:1 for pokeberries to fabric. Presoak fabric in vinegar. Mash berries until they have all been crushed. Fill pot with enough water to cover the berries and still alow yarn to move freely. Add 1/2 C vinegar for every 1 gal water. The PH has to be 3.5; pretty acid. Heat the dye pot on medium but do not boil, and let steep for about an hour. Strain. Prewet yarn, preferably in an acid bath (1/4 C vinegar in the water bath). Add the prewetted yarns to te dye pot and let them soak about 2 hours or overnight. Hang the yarn without rinsing for at least 20 minutes and up to half a day and then rinse excess color.

Red cabbage is cut up.  If you prefer a more blue color, add salt. Otherwise the color will be pink. Fibers must first be soaked in a tannin bath (acorns!) and then mordanted with alum.

Soak the fiber you will be dyeing in water for an hour or overnight. Fill the dye pot with enough water to cover the fabric and brint the water to a simmer. Put the cut up cabbage into the pot, bring the heat up to a simmer, and simmer for at least 20 minutes or until the cabbage leaves lose their color and become a light pale pink. Strain out the cabbage. Bring the dye back to a simmer and add the presoaked fiber. Simmer for about 1/2 an hour.

The dye is now a purple lavender. If you prefer pink, stir in the vinegar or lemon juice now. Salt will change the dye to dark blue. Soak the fiber until it reaches the desired shade.Rinse and hang to dry.

Natural dye colors tend to be more muted than the synthetics but many are also much less toxic and make use of easily obtainable materials.


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