Monday, April 4, 2011

Natural Dyeing - Apple Twigs

This weekend we got together for a natural dye day.  We aren't ready to make a decision about indigo yet, so our dye of choice was apple twigs.   Maybe you've noticed that spring apple prunings result in beautiful orange color magically appearing on the cuts.   Turns out that is useful dye and you can put it on fiber.

Apple twigs
I started prepping the dye a day in advance.    I cut enough twigs to make 200% WOG [weight of goods = the total weight of the fibers that we'd be dyeing.]

Then I boiled them at a simmer for a few hours to help release the dye.    They smelled like apple butter.

I let them sit overnight and then in the morning I boiled them again for 90 minutes before we removed the twigs and put in the fiber.

We let it simmer for a couple of hours while we tried to catch up on the sample cards.    [I fear we'll never catch up.]

Apple twigs give beautiful apricots and browns. 

The brighter colors had an ammonia after bath.   The darker colors were post-mordanted with iron.

If we had increased the amount to 300% WOG, we'd have gotten darker colors.   I also wonder what kind of color we'd get from twigs that were dried, or cut at a different time of the year or from an apple tree that bears green or golden apples instead of red. 

If you're interested in natural dyeing, we highly recommend these two books:  Wild Color, by Jenny Dean and Indigo, Madder and Marigold by Trudy Van Stralen.

There are a lot of other natural dyeing books out there, but these are the ones we go to most often and whose instructions are comprehensive and clear.

Only one dye left and we'll achieve our goal of 10 natural dyes on 10 fibers in 24 different mordanting variations.    We've only got six of the dyes on cards so far [logwood, cochineal, madder, brazilwood, goldenrod and walnut] and already my binder is bursting.    Waiting to be put on cards:   comfrey, osage orange, apple twigs.    It's kind of exciting!

Indigo is next.    We've all done indigo before.....but it's been a while.  We'd love to hear your experiences and recommendations for an indigo pot.


  1. Those are beautiful colors. How amazing!

  2. We had no idea we could get such great color from bark. Rumor has it you can get pinks from cherry - makes me want to go find some....

  3. That was what I was going to say: I had no idea you can get such a pretty color from bark!

    I have no experience, of course, but just wanted to share that the guy who bought the house that my friend, Grace, used to live in in Bloomington is an art prof at IU and specializes in growing indigo and using that to dye. He learned the technique in Japan, I believe. Anyway, he converted a large part of the front of the property to an indigo field. I can tell you where it is if you ever want to drive by. :)


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