Sunday, November 11, 2012

Dyeing with mulberries

We have some mulberry trees in our garden because we used to keep silkworms in our classrooms.  The eggs used to hatch before the leaves opened on local mulberry trees (there are a surprising number of them around the streets nearby).  So research was done (by the gardening enthusiast in the family) and it was found that there is a different sort of mulberry tree that has its leaves earlier than the ones we had been using.  Three trees were planted in our yard.
Over the years, we haven't had a great crop of mulberries for humans - the possums and birds and rats have loved them.  Maybe it was the breaking of the drought or maybe the rumour that there is a Powerful Owl in the area and that it has reduced the possum and rat population is true.  Whatever the reason, there is a good crop of berries this year.  We thought about eating them but a) they are not that tasty, b) there are a LOT of them and c) the stems are really hard to get out.  So, as the birds do very colourful dropping on our washing at this season, I thought the berries might be good for dyeing.

Important note:  after picking the mulberries, check the bottoms of your shoes before walking around the house!!

I looked up my Eco Colour by India Flint, various online sites (eg, here and here and here) and have come up with some varied instructions for using berries in dyeing.
Several of my resources mentioned that a good mordant for berry dyeing is half a cup of salt to 8 cups of water.
All the sources say to cut up the fruit, or mash it, and boil it to get a dye bath from plant material (except India Flint, who recommends freezing it. I have put some aside in the freezer, that will have to be a different experiment).  Most say to boil the dye bath for an hour but one said that for red and yellow, you shouldn't do it so long, the heat destroys the colour.
Because I have used various sources, and because most of them say to experiment, I have made up my own way of doing it.  This is partly because I think I didn't read all the sources correctly and so have made some errors.  I get a bit confused when I switch back and forth between 'recipes'.
However ... this is what I have done.
I put 3 cups of berries in 6 cups of water and brought it to the boil for about 5 minutes.  Then I let it sit overnight - one of the links had said that I could get stronger colour if I left the plant material in to soak longer.
The various sources say to soak the fabric in the salty solution but they are not consistent on how long, whether to boil the fabric in it or to put it in the dye solution.  So I have soaked the fabric (did I mention that I am using silk?) in the solution overnight also (only because I had already put it in before I decided to let the dye bath soak overnight). The salt solution and fabric were brought to the boil and let simmer for an hour.  I did this because I thought the heat might help the fabric to absorb the mordant better but I don't want to boil the dye bath any more.  There are various sources that suggest that you can prepare the fabric with the mordant before putting it in the dye bath, so I hope that it will work for a salt mordant.

Now it is sitting in the dye bath and I am waiting 'patiently' to see what will eventuate.

1 comment:

parlance said...

1. I think they taste delicious!

2. I read that the stems are edible, so maybe when cooking with them, or just eating them on the brekky porridge, simply eat the stems.

3. I did read that you can clip the stems off with nail clippers. (Sounds a bit tedious, but hey, who's complaining when nature gives us free food that can't be bought in the shops.)