Grackle & Sun

At the Burrow DyeTable # 8: Pokeweed Racemes, Take 3

Here is the third and final installment of this first round of pokeweed raceme dye experiments.  I think the racemes are so beautiful.  I’d say “otherworldly”, but it’s hard to think that of anything born out of Missouri Ozark clay and rock.

Dye Notes:

Dyestuff:  Pokeweed (phytolacca americana)

Parts used:  The racemes (the part that holds the berries)

Source:  My yard, the Haggencrone’s yard, my friend Debbie’s yard, and the Farm

Yarn:  Mountain Meadow Cody, 100% wool.  I mordanted a little differently this time, opting not to follow any instructions other than those given by the seat of my pants.  I decided to use more vinegar, and pretty much did a 1:3 ratio of white distilled vinegar to water.  The reason for this is that in lieu of using straight acetic acid, I’m hoping the higher acid content will help with the fastness of this dye.  So I soaked 100g of wool yarn in a pot of 1/4 vinegar to 3/4 water.  I heated the pot to 190F and held it there for an hour.  Then I let the yarn sit and cool in the mordant bath overnight.  The starting pH at room temperature was 3.1.  At 188.2F, it was 3.0.

Ratio of dyestuff to fiber:  I only used half of the yarn I mordanted for this particular dyebath, so 50g total.  I’m not sure of the exact amount of racemes.  I didn’t weigh them out, as this was done on a whim.  But I can tell you that when I pulled them all from the bucket, they easily weighed a pound.   I’m sure most of that was the vinegar that they absorbed., so I’m going to say maybe 100g starting weight, and next time I promise to weigh them out.

Extraction:   Chucked the racemes into a bucket and covered them in white distilled vinegar.  Put a plate on top to hold them down.  Left them on their own for a couple months.   As you can see, these didn’t leach out the way the other ones did.  I think had I put much more vinegar in, they would have.  They were pretty compacted in this bucket.

Dyebath:  After the recent success with the cold pokeberry dyebath, I knew that I had to try a cold raceme dyebath, too.  I strained out the racemes through a colander and reserved half of the liquid for the cold dyejar (the other half was used for the hot dyebath).  I added the premordanted yarn and brought the dyejar inside the house, because I was afraid it might freeze and crack if left outside.  I kept it covered with black cloth (actually, just a black shirt—sorry if that is less poetic) to block out the sunlight.  The yarn sat undisturbed for 9 days.

The results?

WOOT!!!  Slam dunk and SCORE!  Cold dyeing with poke is the way to go.

Here is a picture of all 3 pokeweed raceme experiments together:

Fascinating, don’t you think?  That such totally different colours could come from the same plant, the same part of that plant, on the same yarn, and with the same mordant—just because of a difference in the specific dyebath process.  Very cool.  So does anyone want to hazard a guess as to why the cold process put the red on the wool when the heated baths didn’t?  Next I’ll put samples from these 3 up for a lightfastness test.  Will be interesting.  Here’s to curiousity and experimentation!

Live happy, dye happy!

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12 thoughts on “At the Burrow DyeTable # 8: Pokeweed Racemes, Take 3

  1. Nice colour. Have you tried washing it. I know that blue with black beans – also a cold process – totally loose the blue, and turn steel gray in a washing mashine.

    • Thank you. This was dyed on regular wool, so it won’t be going into the washing machine. It has been thoroughly rinsed but not washed yet. I’ll definitely post wash-fastness when it comes up. I’ve got some black bean dyed superwash sock yarn that so far seems to be doing OK. It’s only had a hand washing though.

  2. I have no idea why the cold dyeing worked better… but it does seem that some of the red dyes (such as madder) do better in cold processes and fail if the process is too hot. I wonder if time might be a factor too. The black bean dyes I have done are holding up well too. Still blue in both pairs of socks that have come out of them… not sure how my friends are washing them, but they clearly are washing and wearing them!

    • I’ve not yet dyed with madder, but I do know that the woman at Growing Colour (Tyfu Lliw), who does almost all solar dyeing, says that some dyes actually need the extended period of time to take and set well. She leaves hers for months sometimes (and gets beautiful results).

  3. very interesting indeed!! OK, my completely uninformed perhaps obvious guess is that the high temperature either destroys or alters the pigment somehow, so that it doesn’t stick to the yarn.It would be interesting to know if you get the same strong red by cold dyeing after you have heated the bath once. I’m thinking it would reveal if the pigment is completely destroyed, or if it is just a temporary change. I’m sure there are one PhD’s worth of dyeing experiments in there!

    • Oh, that’s a great suggestion. I still have the cold batch reserved. It would be interesting to split it in thirds and do a cold dye, a hot dye, and then a cold dye with a portion of the bath that has been heated first… so many variables, so little time!

  4. i am really excited about duplicating your results. is it correct that you covered the racemes with just vinegar in the pot then set it out for several months out of the sun? is it ok to put dyestuffs in plastic? because the plastic doesnt take up the dye? thank you so much. you have proved an invaluable source for a newbie dyer!!

  5. Are you interested in doing matter dying? I will have seed this season and I would be happy to share. I started the seed in a really large pot, and grew it inside for one year before planting out in a raised bed for containment. It can be invasive in some areas. I cut it back and cover with straw for winter protection ( I live in VT). Can’t wait to harvest some fresh Roots next summer!

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