Dyeing with Pokeberry

A couple weeks ago, I discovered a pile of black walnuts my cousins' kids had gathered while they were here. I figured that was a good enough sign to dye! Since I prefer to save energy (both my own and electric/water), I also did a marigold and pokeberry dye that day too. The two former dyes are nothing new here so I wont go into too much about them. Though I will say I am trying to get the color I got the first time I did a marigold bath. When I first posted the photo a handful of people asked how I got that color. I assumed that was the color you'd get from marigolds. Since then results have been more yellow-y hues with a tint of green or brown. The first time was just fresh picked petals. The second was frozen petals and heads. Assuming the heads were adding the green, I only used frozen petals for the third bath. Still I had the same yellow. Just a couple days ago I did another bath with fresh picked petals with the same result. The only other culprit I can think of is that my first skein was a superwash, which can pick up and brighten colors easier. Hopefully I can try again before the frost hits the flowers.

But enough on that, this post is about Pokeberries! I've been waiting all summer for the clusters of green berries to ripen to that rich purple. Before I go any further I have to get this out first: Pokeberry/Pokeweed is generally considered poisonous. I've read the plant and root are more poisonous than the berries and that the berries become less dangerous as they ripen. Some people are very lax about them and don't consider them that dangerous, while others are more cautious. Needless to say, please be smart about any foraging or dyeing you may do on your own! As a precautionary measure, all of the tools and equipment I use for dyeing are designated specifically for my dyeing and my dyeing alone. I also work outside for plenty of ventilation and less worry of staining things around me. 

One great thing about pokeberries is that you don't need many for a decent color. I only had a small handful by the time I removed the berries from the stems. Like most dyes, pokeberry results can vary with different fibers, mordants, modifiers, methods, etc. And, unfortunately, like most berry dyes, they aren't usually the most light-fast over time. The general consensus with pokeberry is to aim for a low pH bath, most commonly attained with vinegar. I had luck with my usual alum and cream of tartar mordant and then a vinegar modifier. (Though I see now that it being a superwash might have something to with it too!) I only heated the berries to an almost-boil since I'd read that boiling them can destroy the redness. Then strained out the solids, added a splash of white vinegar and let the yarn steep in that bath overnight. Then I removed the excess liquid and hung it up to dry. The following day I rinsed until the water was fairly clear and then let dry for a final time. 

The two skeins I have will sit in my stash for quite a while until I find the perfect project for them. It's definitely not my color but I'm impressed with the intense result from my labors and from the (rather small) cluster of berries I gathered from around here. What would YOU knit with this color?


dyeingLiesl7 Comments