Natural Dye Notebook :: no 32, Blackberry

Posted by Erin Howe on

When I began trying to find out what dye color each of the plants on my property and in my area could make, if any, I thought it was as simple as that. A plant makes a color. But as we’ve seen, different parts of plants can make wildly different colors. I’m told different seasons can affect the colors those plant parts will produce. And how the dyer handles the dye material affects the outcome too. I’m starting to think that each of these plants would require the patience and respect of a lengthy apprenticeship to fully utilize and appreciate. 

Before I learned that not allowing the dyepot to boil could change the color, I boiled blackberry leaves:

When I came back to my set of swatches to post about them here, I wondered whether not boiling the pot would brighten the color. So I threw in a second set of leaves, a second set of swatches, and gently heated them without so much as a simmer. 

The top row here is boiled and identical to the swatches in the photo above. The lower row is unboiled.


I did believe that not boiling the dyepot was an unmitigated good. But blackberry puts a hand on my shoulder and tells me that I am young at dyeing, and should watch and learn more before I make sweeping claims. The more golden, less green color of the wool and the cotton twill isn’t better than the boiled color. It’s just different. And the stronger color on the soda-dipped cotton came from the boiled pot. 

Dipping the blackberry dyed swatch in iron water gave me a strong result:

And so plant dyes remain a magical well of secrets into which I’ve only just begun to dip my cup. Surprises abound, and I’ll have to draw conclusions slowly and tentatively. But I am learning. Thanks for the lesson, blackberry. 


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