Kettle Dyeing – Mulberries & Blackberries

I’m sick of spinning boring white wool. So this weekend I went a little crazy and took over the kitchen for about 6 hours.

Two years ago the council environmental board issued the local landowners with a notice to eradicate all blackberries. I understand that blackberries are a noxious weed and that they completely take over creeks and paddocks, but it was also a bit disappointing because I love going out on an early summer morning, to beat the mid-day heat, and collecting blackberries.

So that year, I enlisted the help of all my family and friends and every morning before work we would go out and pick the very last of our blackberries. We ended up with I think about 30 kilos of blackberries. I had blackberries on porridge, I made blackberry pies, blackberry sauce, I even tried blackberry ice-cream… but eventually… we all had to go on diets from eating too much pie…so the remaining blackberries went into the freezer.

They have been sitting in the bottom of the freezer…sad…lonely…forgotten. Until this weekend. I’m not sure if two year old blackberries are okay for eating…but I figured they would be great for dyeing.

We also have a mulberry tree in the orchard…so I picked a handful of the remaining berries (it’s the tail-end of the season) and got started.

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The mulberries and the blackberries went into separate pots – with just enough water to cover them.

Mulberries on the stove, not yet to the boil.

Mulberries on the stove, not yet to the boil.

Frozen blackberries.

Frozen blackberries.

I boiled brought the berries to the boil and then let them simmer for about 30 minutes – or until they are soft and squishy.

The next step was to strain the berries. I didn’t want any of the pulp or seeds getting into the dye mixture, so I strained them through a chux. You would use a piece of muslin…or a very fine sieve…but beware, anything plastic or fabric will possibly stain…

The strained pulp...not very pretty.

The strained pulp…not very pretty.

What is left is the (hopefully) concentrated dye. If you want it more concentrated, it should be left on the stove to simmer for longer.

Mulberry concentrate.

Mulberry concentrate.

Now we mix the mulberry concentrate with the mordant. I have very limited experience (read none) with mordants… so I decided to try out a few different combinations.

Batch One: Mulberries w/ Cream of Tartar + Alum

Batch Two: Blackberries w/ Cream of Tartar + Alum

Batch Three: Blackberries w/ Citric Acid

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I forgot to take measurements … but we didn’t have much Alum left (I really need to go to town soon)… so I only used about a teaspoon, maybe a a teaspoon and a half. The mordants are then mixed into the concentrate.

Now, the exciting part. Take the washed wool and soak it in a water/vingear solution for about 30 minutes (practically, you would do this while cooking the berries).

Once the wool is suitably soaked…layer it carefully in the bottom of a saucepan.

Washed (grey) borderleister wool

Washed (grey) borderleister wool

The wool needs to be just covered with the water/dye. I poured the hot dye/mordant solution directly onto the wet wool. However, I have a feeling that this may have caused the fiber to felt slightly…so next time I will either let the solution cool slightly…or mix it with some water before pouring onto the wool.

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Looking back at this photo I would possibly add a little more water. Then the wool/dye mix is brought to the boil on the stove and then left to simmer for about 20-30 minutes.

After about half an hour, take the pot off the stove and let it sit until cool. This is the hardest part…the waiting…it’s horrible. I wanted to check the wool so badly, in the end I had to go and distract myself with housework.

Once the wool is cool, rinse it out with lukewarm water, lightly squeeze dry in an old towel and hang in a delicates bag on the clothes line.

This is the mulberry wool before it is dry.

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I think it is going to be really pretty.

It rained yesterday afternoon and this morning…so it might be a while before I get photos of the dry wool…but my next mission is to spin up all three samples to see if there is any difference and then probably ply them all together.

Until next time.

Krissie πŸ™‚

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12 thoughts on “Kettle Dyeing – Mulberries & Blackberries

  1. I don’t know how long you have been spinning, but your yarns are very consistent and I think your work is wonderful. After 3 years of spinning, I am still struggling with that. I get a little better each time, but it has not come easy for me.

    Thank you so much for visiting my blog and leaving a comment. I really appreciate it.

    • Thanks πŸ™‚ You should definitely give it a try! It’s not too hard – just a bit time consuming. I spun half the mulberry up tonight and will ply it tomorrow. The color is very pink/purple πŸ™‚

  2. This looks interesting, I have some blackberries that have been sitting in the freezer for a couple of years and I have some citric acid. Do you remember how much citric acid you used and was it washfast?

  3. I think I used about a teaspoon of citric acid. I’ve haven’t washed the wool much, only the first time I washed it to set the twist and it seemed pretty good. Also, i would probably soak the wool in the mordant + water solution before putting the wool into the dye next time – I think it helps the wool take the colour better than just putting the mordant straight into the dye. Goodluck if you decide to try it πŸ™‚

  4. Pingback: Not Far From The Tree

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