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!

Monday Mentions

1. The extreme blocking worked wonders on the Getting Warmer cowl (Rav link). I sent a photo to the silent auction winner and she loves it. It is heading to Indiana this week. Yarn is Kenyan merino that I kettle dyed with acid dyes in vermillion. I will probably make another one for myself eventually.

2. I attended my first Rust Belt Fiber Shed meeting tonight. It was a meeting of natural dyers. It was awesome.

3. My friend James started a new podcast for people who want to learn how to podcast. He’s a genius. Listen here. I will listen and then maybe I will understand what to do with The Just Craft.

4. I will be attending the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival with Sarah and friends! I bought my plane ticket today! I don’t have any local knitting friends to go to fiber shows with. Isn’t that sad? I have local friends but none I would subject to a day weekend long fiber event. So I am saving up for Wisconsin!

5. I’m adding another KAL to my rotation. Magpie Fibers is hosting a Beav-a-long! 🤣 Learn more here.

Alissa and Bob Versus Nature

Alissa 1, Virginia Creeper 0

Bob and I worked in the garden this morning. It was exhausting!

Before
After

The next steps are to drill holes in the drainage pipe, add gravel over the pipe to facilitate drainage, level out the existing soil, cover it with landscaping fabric to kill as many of the weeds that we can, and add a foot or so of garden soil on the top. Then I can plant baby plants!

Virginia Creeper was not going quietly. It fought back by thwacking us in the face multiple times. I think it spit in my eye once. I obtained great satisfaction digging up and pulling out the long roots. Bob started calling it, “Virginia Creeper versus Oklahoma Alissa.” I think I prefer to be called Tenacious A. I won the battle, but I’m sure Virginia Creeper will win the war. So the plan is to continue to cut it back regularly while weeding and hope it gives in to human perseverance someday. There are also some trees in the garden that we will have to work around, but they aren’t as invasive so we will take a live and let live approach with them.

Have you started any spring gardening yet? Do you have any tenacious weeds that won’t go quietly? Do you have any tips? What are you planting this year?

Saturdye

Today Bob pruned one of our Apple trees and I saved the bark for dyeing. I’ve not done this before but I’ve been doing some research on it.

Our apple trees are old and neglected and they need a good prune. We think we can probably cut them back a little harder, but we’re going to look into it first.

I read that the best part to use is the inner bark and twigs. I focused on the green wood as there was a lot of dead stuff coming off. I have no idea what’s better for dyeing but the green shoots made sense to me.

It was suggested to soak the wood for about a week before using them in a dye bath. I used our double ceramic filtered well water to avoid any metals and other weirdness. I’ve got them sitting in a sunny window. JoJo is curious and also mad that we went outside and didn’t take her with us, which we never do. But if we leave the house, when we come back she yells at us for awhile to express her discontent. Or maybe she is just asking us where we went and why didn’t we take her with us? We’re always telling her it’s not safe out there for her (foxes, coyotes, falcons, crows the size of… well, the same size as JoJo) so she’s probably worried about us when we go outside.

I also dyed some wool with acid dye today. This color is silver and you can see I am able to recreate my results from a few weeks ago. The Merino takes the dye well. The Shetland is middling, and the Romeldale-CVM which is unprocessed and sunbleached takes the least color. I used vinegar in this bath.

L to R: Merino, Shetland, Romeldale-CVM

These will be perfect for my next felt piece which is about a stormy day in Iona, Cape Breton.

I received what I think? is my last installment of my Fairlight Fibers yarn club. I guess she got a little behind on her shipments as I canceled in January after six months, which was what I had originally signed up for. But it kept charging me so I had to go in and manually cancel. I enjoyed this club but wanted to try some new ones. Anyway, this gorgeous yarn is 50/50 alpaca and rose fiber. That’s right. Rose fiber! It’s very soft and has a lovely sheen. Not sure what to make with it. Something special.

I hope you’re having a lovely Saturday, whatever you’re doing. I need to catch up on my Water shawl as all my KAL pals are way ahead of me!

Friday FO

I finished the Getting Warmer cowl in the Kenyan merino I dyed. I didn’t have enough yarn to knit the pattern as written. I had to make it a little smaller, and then I blocked the heck out of it. Fingers crossed for some squooshy garter stitch drape. I hope the auction winner enjoys it!

This is my first time using my Cocoknits blocking tools and it is so much better than using towels!

Saturday Sewing

I struggled to get good photos today. But here I am wearing the new raglan dress I made, holding the yarn I ordered to knit a matching cardigan. It’s not a perfect match but I think it’s close enough.

Orange zipper for the win.

Pattern is The Raglan Dress by The Avid Seamstress. I recommend this pattern. I was able to sew mine in a couple of hours. It fits really well and I don’t want to take it off. Fabric is Mammoth Flannel in Adventure Blue by Robert Kauffman from Sew to Speak. I did try to match my plaids, but didn’t manage it as well as I would have liked. I’m definitely sewing this dress again. The only thing I didn’t understand is they don’t tell you to use interfacing on the neckline facings, but I did anyway.

My next sewing project will be these overalls in this brushed cotton twill. My goal is to make an entire wardrobe of loose clothing so I don’t ever have to wear anything tight around my waist again.

YOPing on a Sunday

I updated my Year of Projects (YOP) list today, and it felt good — a reminder of why I should keep doing Year of Projects.

Fiber Art

I reached out to the gallery owner to share my work so far, and make sure the show was still on in September. And it is! So yesterday I looked through my photos for inspiration. I think I will spend some time sketching today. I have four pieces completed, although the fourth is in the still-hemming-and-hawing-and-stitching phase.

Knitting

I’ve been working on my Water shawl since I finished Turtledove. I’m almost to the short row panes.

I also need to cast on the Getting Warmer cowl (Rav link) for the silent auction winner for our fundraiser at work This will be a nice mindless knit for when Water is too challenging for my evening brain.

Sewing

📸 The Avid Seamstress

This is the raglan dress I’m making in the plaid flannel, although I think I will make the sleeves elbow length and a little more fitted than these.

📸 The Avid Seamstress

Here’s the short sleeved version which I will make in a blue cotton shirting. They have a tutorial on their website if you would like more information about this dress. Today my plan is to piece the pattern together.

This has been a Year of Projects Update. You can read my updated list here. You can find out more about the group here.

Bonus content: I am trying my hand at making vanilla extract. At work we are developing a partnership with a Fair Trade vanilla bean farm. Extract is super easy to make. I split the beans and dropped them in vodka. They have only been in there 2 days and it already smells amazing!

Saturday Sweater, Because Alliteration is Fun

I finished my Turtledove (Rav project page) and I love it. I was inspired to make it because Liz made two, she loves to wear hers so much. It was an easy, quick, straightforward knit, which I enjoy. And it’s my favorite color. Pattern is Turtledove by Espace Tricot (Rav link). Yarn is Cascade Eco in color Twilight.

I removed the background in this photo because it was taken on carpet. Let’s have some fun with that.

Saturday Sweater in a Starry Sky
Saturday Sweater on Snow
Saturday Sweater with Sheep

There are many more fun things I could do with this sweater, like turn it into an Asteroids ship or have it rocketing to the moon, but that takes a lot of time and I would rather knit. Well maybe just one…

Shooting Star Sweater

I needed that. Here’s a photo of the underarm seams.

Not gorgeous but much better than I could do picking up stitches. I cast on six stitches on the sleeve side and used a mattress stitch to seam them.

Now I’m off to knit knit knit on my Water Shawl, and hopefully take a walk in nature this afternoon. What are you doing today?

Put a Pom Pom on it!

In the before times, you wouldn’t have caught me with a phony fur pom pom on my head. Or, for that matter, speckles in my yarn or a fade on my being. But I can admit when I’m wrong. I was wrong about these things.

You know why? Because knitting should be whatever makes us happy. I think I was taking my knitting WAY too seriously, don’t you? So here’s my Kenora Toque in Rauma Strikkegarn with a pom pom! (Rav link)

Very happy and look how well it matches my duffle coat.

I’m also really, really excited to tell you I am now on the sleeves of my Turtledove! I cannot wait to wear this so I will probably focus on it until I finish it. It’s very soft and squishy. Also, I want you to know, that after knitting the Cocoknits method, I will never, ever try to pick up and knit underarm stitches again. I will (and did) cast on enough stitches on the sleeve to match the underarm, then I will seam it when I’m done. That way I won’t have those weird holes and ladders that I can’t unsee and pretend aren’t there.

Speaking of fades, I’ve decided to knit a Boxy fade (Rav link). I splurged on a yarn fade bundle from La Bien Aimee. It’s my first time ordering from her, but I’ve been drooling since Knit City.

I also ordered some really nice plaid flannel fabric that I had intended to make PJs with, but it is too nice. It wants to be a dress. So I’m sewing this raglan dress. I love it so much, I also ordered some beautiful blue cotton shirting to make a summertime one. I have a lot of projects to add to my Year of Projects list, don’t I?

I’ve been a little down lately, so I haven’t been blogging much. That probably explains all the splurging. I have one last splurge to share.

This print is from a UK artist who made this for Shetland Wool Week 2020. I’ve been waiting for her Etsy shop to be restocked. Now I just have to find a suitable frame. I will hang it in my studio and gaze upon it lovingly and sigh.

How are you doing? Are you okay? I haven’t really been that okay, and a friend recently asked me straight up how I was. It helped to just be able to say, I am not okay. We lost a family member recently, a dear “Uncle” who was technically not my biological uncle, but he was my Dad’s best friend, and my best friend’s Dad, and definitely an important Uncle to me. We were close when we lived in Oklahoma City, and he was there for me during my separation and divorce, and helped me get back on my feet financially. He helped us get back on our feet financially after my Dad died, too, though I was too young to understand that at the time. So, feeling sad but appreciative. Godspeed Uncle Jack. ❤

Also, I am feeling depleted. As I am sure many of us are after a year of living through a pandemic.

But how are you? Please spill your beans in the comments, if you like.