Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Dyeing With Viburnum Trilobum - Highbush Cranberry


This winter I noticed a bright red berry against the white of the snow and identified it as a viburnum trilobum, or Highbush Cranberry.  They're an edible fruit, though comprised mostly of pit.  I read that the birds save these berries until mid to late winter (how they know to save them is beyond me, but cool!) and eat them when other food sources are scarce.  A flock of Cedar Waxwings can wipe out an entire bush of them in no time.  Apparently they didn't visit this particular bush because I was surprised to see the berries still hanging when I went walking this weekend. 

Their bright red had faded a bit and the berries were sort of translucent.  I picked what was left and brought them back to the house to see what kind of dye they would make. 

note:  milk jugs make handy gathering buckets. 
Just cut off the top, leaving the handle, and voila! 
When you're done using it, just recycle as normal.

I put the berries and stems in a small pot with about 2 cups of water and simmered it for 20 minutes.  Meanwhile, I wetted my wool roving and a small piece of felted wool sweater and put them in an empty pickle jar with a teaspoon of alum to act as a mordant.  Once the dyestuffs had cooled off a bit, I poured the whole lot it into the jar- pits, sludge, stems et all - put the lid on, and set it on my windowsill for two days.


After letting the concotion stew, I opened up the jar and braced myself for what I expected to be a horrible smell.  After all, wet wool is not the sweetest smell in the barnyard.  I was pleasantly suprised though, that there was just a little wet sheep smell mixed with a slight fruit smell.  Hey, I can handle that. 

The resulting color is a pale peachy-tan on the felted wool, and a slightly paler hue on the wool roving.  I wet-felted a piece of the roving and dried everything in the sun to see how it would react to soap and sunlight, and the colors remained fairly consistent. 



I'll be on the look-out for these berries in the fall when they're full of color and will try this again.  These berries were well past their prime so I'm hoping to see a brighter color with "new" berries. 

6 comments:

Sonia said...

ooooh the lovely light peach you obtained !! how neat :) I admitt I was waiting for the results eheh, I'm one of the bunch of girls who get excited by such experiments, but you knew that already, right ?
I totally understand what you mean that maybe the color would have been different with "fresher" berries. That's what I thought when I used the juniperus oxycedrus berries. They were a bit "dry", so I wondered what the result would have been with fresh ones. Well, next time !
thanks a lot for sharing this with us, sweet girl :) oxoxo

Kar said...

That really looks like alot of fun. I'm going to have to try my hand at dyeing here soon. Oh the possibilities!

Mona said...

Lovely peach! I wonder how the wool roving reacted - did it felt at all?

Gordana.M said...

I love the result, Lisa... I wonder what would rose-hip do for red?

Margie Oomen said...

the color reminds me of when my daughter wanted pink icing on her cupcakes and I refused to use the unnatural food colorings so instead tried to used strawberry juice. She was so disappointed but the taste made up for it

Lisa at Lil Fish Studios said...

Thank you so much, everyone, for stopping by. I love to try natural dyeing but don't get as much time for it as I'd like.

Mona - no, it didn't felt in the dye. Although the water was hot, I didn't agitate the fibers at all. I was still able to pull the roving apart and use it to make a wet-felted bead after dyeing.

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