03 September, 2008

Natural Dying - Nanking Cherries

Here is the second round in my natural dying experiment. I picked the nanking cherries off the bush in front of both ours and the neighbour's house. These tiny red Prairie cherries are a staple in my life. We had a bush in our yard growing up. Actually, it is still producing cherries at my parents' house. Usually one of the first things to bloom, the flowers are a tender pink in the spring. By August you have juicy, dime sized cherries with a small pit. Sure, they are a little tart, but they make an excellent jelly. I realized after the fact that I should have taken a picture of the cherries, but you can still check them out.

This time I used an unbleached muslin and a scrap of plain white cotton. The top photo is the before shot. For the dye I used the mash again, mixed with some juice. I made the juice by boiling down about 3 cups of berries with a few cups of water. I ended up with 3 cups of juice, 2 of which went to making some sherbet. The dye was an orange-pink colour.

To prepare the fabric I decided to treat it with a mordant, alum. Alum is toxic, if you eat a tablespoon or more. But considering it is sold in the spice aisle at the grocery store and is approved as a food additive, I decided it fit into my efforts at natural dying. I simmered the fabric in the mordant solution of 2 tablespoons alum to about 6 or 7 cups water. I know, I should measure and give you more precise instructions, but this was done after the girls went to bed. The fabric simmered for an hour while I simmered the dye solution about the same time.

After soaking in the mordant I squeezed out the excess water, but did not rinse the fabric. Then I added it to the dye and simmered for another hour, stirring to make the colour a bit more even. After an hour I turned off the burner and went to bed. This is what it looked like the following afternoon. We decided to go swimming, so I never got to it in the morning.

From that vibrant colour I got this pale pink. This is it after a few rinses with cold water.

This is it when it dried. The unbleached cotton is on the left.

I've decided to try a few more items, sticking to traditional Prairie materials. My next experiment will be with the berries of the mountain ash tree.

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