The elderberry bushes around Ottawa were in stunning, full bloom a week or two ago. So we gathered some heavy, berry-laden branches and set about making a dye bath from their lovely purple gems.
We put them in a huge pot with lots of water, and slowly cooked them for many hours.
This is some of the lovely purple dye “wine” we ended up with.
Meanwhile, we slowly heated some alum powder with water in another dye pot, and soaked / gently cooked some cotton strips and a square Waldorf playsilk.
Here we ended up putting the fibres directly into our plant-filled dye bath.
And this is what we ended up with – lovely, rich purples.
The cotton strips are shown in the front (and are still a little wet).
It’s so interesting how the different fibres take on the color differently – I only wonder how rich the purple would have been if I’d used some wool roving. Luckily I’ve stashed a big bag of elderberries in our freezer for some purple dyeing this winter.
And here are some cotton strips (on the left) dyed with iron mordant and the elderberry dye bath. We were not too impressed with the color and preferred the alum for this particular dyeing process. Iron is said to often darken the colors but here it didn’t go as planned. Perhaps our iron mordant – the particular plant – who knows?
I guess that’s all part of the beauty of natural dyeing – you just never know what you’re going to get.