Every summer I pick blackberries from the blackberry bush that owns a corner of my backyard. We’ll eat some immediately and then I’ll freeze the rest with the intention of using them for pies in the winter. Problem is, I don’t like baking pies. My freezer is now filled with several years worth of freezer-burned blackberries.
These guys just don’t look edible, so I figured it was time to use them for a dye. I took them out to thaw and noticed a few hours later that half of them were missing. My husband confessed the blackberries were very edible, which is why he used a few cups worth in a smoothie. I’ll admit it, I was slightly annoyed. Until I tasted the smoothie. My hope was that the wool would dye a similar color as my kids berry smoothy mustaches.
I wanted to try a solar dye during one of our rare triple digit heatwaves. However, I didn’t have the patience to wait several days to see my results. Instead, I ended up doing three versions: stove top, solar, and semi-solar.
This entire experiment was done on a whim, which is why is may sound a bit confusing.
I used 3 cups of freezer-burned blackberries, 1 tablespoon of sugar, and enough water to fill a half gallon jar. I put this in the sun for a few hours until the water was hot and the color changed to a rich pink.
Note: I used the sugar (a suggestion from various dye books) to help with color fastness. I’ve read that the main concern with using blackberries for a dye is that the yarn will fade. However, all naturally dyed yarn will fade eventually, some faster than others. And the colors they fade into are usually a lovely hue of the original.
I dumped the hot dye from the jar and into a pot, crushed the blackberries then strained them out, leaving just the dye bath, no berries.
What I noticed about each dye process, was that before I rinsed, the yarn was the same rich pick color as the dye. However, after one rinse, the water ran clear, and the yarn dried with a richer blue tone, to create the lavender color.
Stove-top – I poured they dye into a pot on the stove with a 1.5 ounce of alum mordanted wool. It simmered for approximately 20-30 minutes, before I removed it, and rinsed.
Solar dye – I poured the very hot dye from the stove back into the jar, added another small skein of wool, and set it back into sun and triple digit temperatures. When I pulled it out 12 hours later, the dye water was still too hot to touch.
Semi-solar– I think this was the best mix of both processes, and created my favorite hue of purple. I poured the same dye from the jar back into the pot, added another skein of wool, let it simmer for 30-40 minutes, then poured the entire mixture back into the jar, and back into the sun and over night. Again, the water was hot when I pulled the yarn out the following day.
I have another bag of blackberries in the freezer that I’ll use for more semi-solar experiments. What would happen if I added a bit of vinegar or different additive to the dye? That is, unless my husband gets to them first.