Learn how to naturally dye with foraged acorns. This informative blog will give you a fascinating insight into the history of oak trees and how embedded they are in our culture. You will learn how to extract colour from acorns to use as a natural dye on both animal and plant fibres. From foraging and processing to dyeing and modifying to extend the colour range.
Coreopsis tinctoria is one of over 75 species in the family Asteraceae. Originally native to the prairies of North America it is now cultivated world-wide and comes in a range of yellows and reds or, like Coreopsis tinctoria, yellow with red centres. As the word ‘tinctoria’ indicates this is a recognised dye plant and although historical reference to it is limited, it is known to have been used as a source of natural dye by the plains tribes of North America. It’s also thought to have been used by the early civilisations of Central and South America. Sometimes called ‘tickseed’, a reference to its insect-like seeds, the plant was reportedly used in bedding to ward off bedbugs.
Comfrey leaves can be foraged for dyeing throughout the summer, and I didn’t have to go far to gather a basketful. I wanted enough leaves to dye my fibres at 200% WOF (weight of fibre). So as I planned to dye 100g of fibres I needed 200g of comfrey leaves, which I then left outside for a couple of hours to give the insect life a chance to depart.
My interest in nettles is, of course, as a dye plant and I was interested to learn that during World War II children were encouraged to collect nettles for the production of a dark green dye for camouflage material.
You can forage for nettles throughout the summer, but it’s preferable to gather them in the spring when they are still fresh and bright green. These nettles were gathered in early June when some were beginning to flower.
Dyeing with safflowers has always been a bit of a mystery to me, but when I was given a bunch last summer I had to give them a try. Knowing their reputation for being more ‘fugitive’ than ‘fast’ I wasn’t over hopeful but, I thought, there must be a reason why people have been naturally dyeing with safflower petals for millenia.