Natural Dye Notebook :: No. 16, Maple

Posted by Erin Howe on

Acer species

I have to admit I had high hopes for maple. Maple is the hands-down winner for fall tree color where I live, with different species ranging from yellow to red to orange that’ll make you into a traffic hazard staring at it while driving. Red Maple is the name of my business too, so I harbored a secret hope that something spectacular would come from maple. 

But to expect
the deepest browns or the woodsiest pinks from every plant I put in the pot is to forget the value of neutrals. Neutrals, quiet and understated, make everything else work. The leaves:

The bark, which, when soaking and simmering made liquid just the amber color of maple syrup:

And, in fact, isn’t too far off of maple syrup color in the wool and twill. 

Comparison between the two:

Actually, maple makes medium brown look pretty good.

When I began this plant dyeing project, I started a rust-water jar. It’s a jam jar with iron roofing nails and fence staples in the bottom, and vinegar and water in the top. It’s taken a couple of weeks to rust and give me an iron solution, so I haven’t included an iron-modified swatch in my layouts. I’ve faithfully included one cotton swatch in each set for when it should be ready, though.

When my maple swatches were ready, so was my iron jar, so they got a dip:

And there’s an interesting slate gray on the leaf swatch that’s a completely different color than the maple browns. And a slightly warmer gray from the bark.

So, warm neutrals or cool neutrals, looks like maple has us covered. Never forget neutrals. They make everything else work.


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