Exploring Natural Dyes - Berry Edition


Hello loves!

Julez here :) I have recently taken a hiatus from social media to rediscover why I do art and what about it brings me joy!

This morning when I woke up I had a strong urge to play with dyes. In the past three months I have been using indigo to create different shades of blue, from the deepest indigo's to the palest sky blues. It has been a very fun and informative process. When working with natural dyes it is as much of an art form as it is a precise science. Taking specific notes while experimenting with different quantities of dyes and mordants has allowed me to find a recipe for indigo that creates the exact shade of blue I desire.

Now that I have practiced with indigo I am ready to try my hand with other kinds of natural dyes! First up is the search for a deep purple/pink/ish colour! I am lucky that it is still summer here in Vancouver and that there are plenty of blackberries growing wild.

Experiment #1. Using cherries and blackberries as natural dye! Let see how it turns out... I have decided to use a combination of 80% blackberries and 20% cherries as I know blackberry dyes sometimes end up less red and more greyish purple/black.

With all dyes it is important to use the proper 'mordant' to help the fix the dye into the fabric, but this process is especially important when using with natural dyes as they are not as powerful as synthetic. Lil fun fact, the word mordant derives from the French word "mordre" which means to bite, you are literally trying to make the dye bite into the fabric :) I am currently out of the typical mordants I would use in this situation and I am left with the options of using vinegar, salt or urine... in this case I will be using salt. As weird as it may seem, in the middle ages urine was a key ingredient in the at home dyeing process and commonly used in softening animal hides to turn them into leather. 

1. Pick berries.

2. Keep picking berries, you need more than you think... I used 4 gallons of blackberries for this recipe.

3. Make a smoooooothie, blend those bad boys up! Some recipes say to blend after simmering the fruits but I have decided to blend them first for convenience of not having to blend hot stuff or having to wait for hot stuff to cool down until I am able to blend it.

4. Let them reduce for about 2.5 hours. At this point I have also blended the de-pitted cherries and added them to the blackberries.

5. Now I that I have a thickly reduced concoction of fruits, it is time to strain it and get all the chunky bits out. While this is not mandatory I am choosing to do this to try and make the fabrics I put in the dye turn out more uniform. The chunks of fruit matter might affect this! Maybe next time I will do a comparison of dye that has been strained vs dye that has not been.

6. Add this rich and gooey mixture back into a pot with the mordant of choice, in this scenario salt. 

FYI its a bit of a messy process, make sure to have dedicated dyeing clothing, pots, jars, measuring and stirring instruments!!!!!! The best thing about working with recipes like this is u can eat your dye ~ so happy my parents were out when the straining of the berries went down, holy smokes were things messy at one point.

Two of my favourite shibori methods were used for the cotton I dyed, Itajime shibori and ne-maki shibori. I did not have enough to also dye the arashi shibori (the pole-wrapped ones), they will be used next time!

I let them soak overnight, and then rinsed them in cold water until there was less colour running out of the bundles.

And voila!!!! I am quite impressed with the strength of the dye, I just put them in the wash after waiting for them to air dry outside, I am expecting the colour to go much paler but I am curious and excited to see how they turn out :)

This is the 100% cotton rib before being washed... 

...and this is the colour after being washed!!! I sewed the cotton and rib material into a raglan comfy cozy sweater!!!!! I did lose some of the amazing lines that were created with the shibori but the colour is a gorgeous mauve I am quite happy!!! I am really happy that I added the cherries also... Sans the cherries I think the colour would be much more somber. 
Yahoo!!!! This was A (berry) BLAST cant wait to do more.

4 comments


  • Dana

    Love this Julie. So creative. I want one!


  • Rosemary

    Wow, so many steps! They look so beautiful. Would leaving the sheets out in the sun for longer before washing them, make the dye stay a bit darker? Or would that mainly be achieved through using another kind of mordant?


  • Zane

    So cool! Love the end colour 💯


  • Trevor Newton

    Looks great are they edible💕


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