Dyeing with apple leaves and twigs

Finished apple leave and twig-dyed wool yarn showed with undyed yarn for comparison.

Finished apple leave and twig-dyed wool yarn showed with undyed yarn for comparison.

In my last post about dyeing with apple tree bark, I showed off my finished yarn (sort of a soft mustard with a touch of peach… but in actuality I did the research first, and then did some totally different dyeing before going back to what I had researched.

I wanted the chance to dye just with apple leaves, and a chance to dye just with the bark – BUT in all of my research I got antsy… too antsy to wait for the bark to soak, and too antsy to find the alum for the leaves and do the pre-dye mordant.

Also, when I had harvested the leaves and twigs, I made three piles. One just leaves, one large twigs without any leaves to shave down for the bark, and a third with little twigs with the leaves still on them. I hoped that this last pile would allow the tannins in the twig bark to act as the mordant that the leaf-dye would need.

My dye pot filled with leaves and little twigs from my backyard apple tree.

My dye pot filled with leaves and little twigs from my backyard apple tree.

I like the idea of not using an alum mordant, because in Jenny Dean’s Wild Colour she questions if dyers in the early Anglo-Saxon period (AD450 – AD700) would have had access to alum for a dyeing mordant.

“Alum shale was not discovered in England until the 17th century and before then alum had to be imported, mainly from the Mediterranean. Most experts seem to doubt that mineral alum would have been available widely, if at all, in England during the early Anglo-Saxon period.” – Anglo-Saxon Dye Experiments – Part 1

Since my main persona is from 900s Iceland, this isn’t dead on… but I thought it’s worth considering. If the mineral alum would have been imported, she suspects a modest dyer may have sought other alternatives.

I’ve also read that a number of the dyes that have commonly been associated with the Viking Age (my specific areas of interest) aren’t super colourfast. Since it’s regularly said that the Vikings liked bright and bold colours, I wonder if it’s possible they would have re-dyed their clothing if it became faded?

Dyeing wool

So much snow to melt for my dye pot!

So much snow to melt for my dye pot!

I used 0.126kg (according to my kitchen scale) aka 126 grams or 0.27lbs. of leaves on twigs, in my big enamel stock pot, and enough melted snow water to cover the leaves. I wanted to try snow-water since we had a huge dump of snow two days earlier, and I thought it might be cool to try it with unprocessed water.

I’ve subsequently read that the closest thing to medieval-period (untreated) water would be distilled water, but I’m not about to buy water for dyeing…so rainwater and snow water might be the next best thing!

I had read that bark didn’t like to be boiled, so I kept the pot on medium on the stove, and heated it to barely a simmer, and then let it simmer for 30 minutes.  The dye liquor was sort of a yellow-brown. Not super inspiring.

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Dyeing hand spun 2ply Romney wool yarn with soaked apple bark & twigs. I soaked the dye stuff for 3 days in melted snow water, then added additional tap water to fully immerse my wool. In this short #video clip, I've just added the wool to the dye pot, and I'm stirring it around. The resulting color is similar to the apple bark and leaves, but a little more yellow. I still have loads of the dye stuff leftover… who wants a #yyc dye day? 🙂 . 🌳🍎👗🍏👗🍎🌳 #naturalDyeing #textile #fibrearts #naturalDye #textileDesign #textileArt #handspun #handspinning #spinnersofinstagram #diy #fashion #diyfashion #mysca #reenactment #reenactorsofinstagram #reenactmentlife #yarn #wool #workInProgress #knittersofinstagram #crafty #appletreedye #yyccraft #calgarycraft #videoClip

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62 grams of natural white two-ply Romney wool handspun wool.

62 grams of natural white two-ply Romney wool handspun wool.

Then I let the pot cool a bit, and put in two skeins of handspun natural white Romney wool yarn (the sliver was from the UK, bought at Shuttleworks – a now-closed supplier south of Calgary). It’s a two-ply s-twist yarn (singles spun z-twist). The wool started picking up dye quite quickly, shifting from a yellowish off-white to a light coral quite quickly.

I raised the pot back up to medium, and let it soak in almost-simmer for…. well longer than I intended. I had intended on half an hour, but then a friend came over and visited, so I think it was closer to 50 minutes. I let the yarn soak in the pot while the pot cooled, and then took it out.

Natural white two-ply Romney wool handspun wool dyeing in apple tree leaf and twig dye.

Natural white two-ply Romney wool handspun wool dyeing in apple tree leaf and twig dye.

While wet, the dyed wool is a coral-peach colour. Somewhere between pink and orange. Not too pale, but still I’d be happy with a bolder colour. I washed the wool skeins in regular tap water and a little soap, and rinsed it with water and a splash of vinegar, and then rinsed again. After hanging the wool to dry, it appeared that there was very little colour loss from the original dye.

Natural white two-ply Romney wool handspun wool while still wet from apple tree leaf and twig dye.

Natural white two-ply Romney wool handspun wool while still wet from apple tree leaf and twig dye.

Dyeing linen

White linen in the apple tree leaf and twig dye pot

White linen in the apple tree leaf and twig dye pot

There still seemed to be a lot of colour in the dyepot, so after letting the pot sit for 2 days, I turned the heat back on and popped in about .40m of 3.5oz (approx) weight white linen. The dyebath was a lovely lemon yellow, but right away – the linen wasn’t picking up any colour. I wondered if the dyebath was exhausted, but I still figured I’d give it a good 30 minute simmer to see what might happen.

Really.. not much. The resulting linen is a soft yellow with a *slight* green under-tone.

Linen is known to take up dye poorly though, so it could be either to blame… I didn’t  put more wool into the dyebath to try to check.

In the photo below the dried fabric is shown alongside the wool yarn, on a white and grey counter. You can see the colour of the linen is incredibly pale compared to the yarn.

Handspun wool yarn and woven linen fabric both dyed with apple tree leaves and twigs.

Handspun wool yarn and woven linen fabric both dyed with apple tree leaves and twigs.

Do you have thoughts about why the linen was so much paler than the wool? Let me know in the comments below!

Stinky!

Handspun wool yarn and woven linen fabric both dyed with apple tree leaves and twigs.

Handspun wool yarn and woven linen fabric both dyed with apple tree leaves and twigs.

The scent… well I got used to the scent, but my housemate didn’t like it at all and found it overwhelming. I thought it smelled like dirty wet grass, or the smell of wet leaves left on the lawn after a snowfall…

A small fan and an open window helped a good deal… as did closing doors between the kitchen and other parts of the house.

Worth it?

Finished apple leave and twig-dyed wool yarn showed with undyed yarn for comparison.

Finished apple leave and twig-dyed wool yarn showed with undyed yarn for comparison.

Considering this dyestuff was totally free, and pretty easy to gather (no real prep work needed unlike the apple tree bark) and appears to be pretty colourfast from dye to first wash – I’d use it again.

Comparison of the apple bark/twig only, and twig and leaf dye over handspun wool yarn.

Comparison of the apple bark/twig only, and twig and leaf dye over handspun wool yarn.

However… the colour is not super inspiring, so I’d like to try it with the alum mordant or a modifier to see if I could get a bolder shade. Posters on the natural dyeing Facebook group also suggested putting baking soda into a bark bath.. so that might also be an easy option to bring out more pink colours.

Finished apple leave and twig-dyed wool yarn showed with undyed yarn for comparison.

Finished apple leave and twig-dyed wool yarn showed with undyed yarn for comparison.

Keep in touch!

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Handspun wool yarn and woven linen fabric both dyed with apple tree leaves and twigs.

Handspun wool yarn and woven linen fabric both dyed with apple tree leaves and twigs.

 

5 comments on “Dyeing with apple leaves and twigs

  1. norma says:

    I’ve never tried apple leaf / twig dye but I’m tempted now…
    In my experience dye baths may still have plenty of colour but they suddenly stop. Really hard to know when they’re exhausted.
    Wondered what you used to mordant the linen? I use very dilute milk left to dry into the fabric for a few weeks. Also, I’ve found that every failed or faded dye works as a future mordant.
    I’m definitely no expert but I’ve been writing down my processes to try to learn what works.

    • Dawn says:

      That sounds great! I really should take better notes on things, and at some point I’d like to do some experiments.. different mordants with the same dye, different modifiers etc… but not yet.

      I didn’t mordant the linen at all. I didn’t pre-mordant anything. I don’t have any alum, and while I’m making an iron bath and copper bath right now, I didn’t use it with this dye.

  2. I like the soft peach of the dye; what happens if you dye it again?

    • Dawn says:

      I’m not 100% sure – I suspect that I’d get a slightly deeper colour, but not by much…
      When I’ve done overdyeing that’s usually what happens – like I dyed white silk with avocado, and got a gorgeous fleshy pink… but then when I dyed a previously dyed tan silk, I got a darker pink. (I’ll have a post about that experiment in a few days.)

  3. […] It steeped until February 4 when I did a bunch of dyeing with apple leaves and twigs. (My post about that is coming soon, but you can see some of my previous, unmordanted examples here.) […]

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