Natural Dyeing Experiment with Apple Tree Bark

The first thing you should know is that I basically followed these guidelines. I cut the apple tree prunings into small pieces. I discarded anything old and dead. I soaked them in filtered water for several days. I noticed on Day 2 that the water was a lovely golden color. By Day 4 the water was cloudy and the color was gone. I was worried that my dye bath was past it’s best by date, so this morning I put it all in a pot and boiled it.

As you can see, I basically made some apple tree bark beer. It didn’t smell as good as it sounds. It was putrid, in fact.

I read that apple tree bark dye bath does not require a mordant. Ordinarily, I would go ahead and use one to try for best results. But because I’d made apple tree bark beer and didn’t want to waste perfectly good alum, I decided to try my luck just using the — I want to call it “wort”. Is that correct? That’s probably for something you imbibe. I’m going to use this term anyway. If you know the correct term, please let us know in the comments.

I strained the wort with a colander into a roasting pan with a little more filtered water in it. I added about half of a cup of baking soda because the guidelines said that would make the dye more pink. I stirred it well and added the fiber and yarn. I used merino roving and Cascade Eco yarn, which is Peruvian Highland wool, both natural in color. I covered the pan and put it in a 225 degree oven for three hours.

As you can see, my results are not dramatic. The roving and yarn were natural (compare the undyed roving below) and are now a lovely blushing ivory. I do like it and am planning to knit a cowl with the yarn. I have a lot more apple wood, and I may try it again after mordanting a different yarn with alum.

What do you think? Do you like the results? Have you ever dyed with natural materials? Let us know in the comments!

9 thoughts on “Natural Dyeing Experiment with Apple Tree Bark

  1. It certainly is worth trying other mordants, although I have to say I really like the warmth of the ivory. But you won’t know if you don’t try! Maybe toss in a few pennies? I’d love to see you capture that lovely golden color!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t really know anything about natural dyeing yet. We are having a talk about dyeing in our May session at the Guild. There is a natural dyeing Facebook group, well there’s probably quite a few and they may be worth trying to ask. Its pretty though.

    Liked by 1 person

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