Saturday, August 23, 2014

Dyeing with Box Elder Leaves

My neighbors had an enormous, beautiful box elder tree in their front yard. Recently, with heavy rains, a large limb came down. A large limb came down a year or so ago, too, onto their driveway. Unfortunately, there were several limbs that would do severe damage to their house if they came down, so today they had the whole tree taken down. They were very sad about it. With their permission, I asked the tree guys if I could gather some leaves and bark. I told my neighbor I would try to make dyes with them, dye some wool, and then make something for them with the dyed wool so that they could always remember their beautiful tree.
I filled my large dye pot with leaves and simmered/boiled them for an hour. For the first dip, I mordanted around 8 oz. of Corriedale wool. After straining the leaves out, I plopped the mordanted wool in and simmered for an hour. The water I used was distilled water that I purchased because my water has been funky lately (we have well water and our softener is on the fritz). Here are the leaves in the pot:


When I took the 8 oz. of wool out, it was more yellow than green, but I rinsed it in my tap water and it came out of the rinse more green than yellow. Don't know if that's because of my water or not. The dye left in the pot was much clearer and a bright, pretty yellow, so I mordanted 4 oz. more Corriedale and added it to the dye pot. After simmering for an hour, the wool was a pretty, light yellow. This time I rinsed with the distilled water and it remained the nice, light yellow.

Below you can see the fiber drying. The green on the left is the first dip, the yellow on the right is the second dip:

I mentioned several things that I could do with the dyed wool to my neighbor, such as spinning it into yarn and making something(s), like a hat or scarf or mittens, etc; or I could wet felt the fiber into a felted vessel like a decorative bowl. She said, "Oooo!," to the felted vessel idea, so that's what I'm planning on right now.
I still have bark. I'll let it soak for a few days before I try to make a dye with it. The only reference I've seen on the web to dyeing with box elder bark gave a tan color as a result. I'm soaking the bark in untreated well water that's really, really hard. I'm hoping the extra iron and other things will sadden the tan a bit toward a brown, if I get anything at all. We'll see what happens. If I get any color at all, I'll try to remember to take pics and post about it.