Natural dye – Elder berry

The elder berry tree is fruiting and the sight of those little purple bursts of colour proved too much for me to resist. I harvested about two cups of berries and froze them in one of my handy paint bags (inside a silicon container to avoid mess in the freezer). Apparently the freezing process breaks down the cell walls and makes it easier for the colour to leach out. The next day I put them into my solar dye jar with some water and a half cup of home made vinegar. The acidity of the vinegar helps to bind the colour to the yarn.

Elder berries in a paint bag in a silicon bag… in a freezer.
My solar dye jar and home made vinegar
Putting it all together

The jar sat in the sun for two days and on the third morning I suddenly realised that I hadn’t mordanted the yarn before popping it into the dye. So I dumped a tablespoon of alum into the dye bath and plonked the wool back in for another day (I am known for being half-assed).

The first day of sitting
The second day of sitting

After three days of soaking (one full day with alum in the dye bath), I rinsed the yarn out and got a rather gorgeous lilac shade. Beautiful and delicate, but not what I was expecting. I wonder if the yarn would take up more dye if I pre mordanted it?

Before adding alum
The alum
After adding a tablespoon of alum
After rinsing and drying.

2 thoughts on “Natural dye – Elder berry

  1. I surmise it would take up more dye — resulting in a darker shade. The results speak for themselves; the last-minute addition of alum gave it a deeper color.

    If I may also suggest, maybe leaving it longer in the elderberry dye would do some wonders?

  2. It is possible that more dye would be taken up if I added more had more dye matter in the pot. I am not sure if leaving it longer would make it a darker shade or not, but it is worth a try. I know that there are so many variables to try that I will never get bored with playing with these dyes.

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