nichepoetryandprose

poetry and prose about place

harvesting colour – the orange of alder bark

with 8 comments


Last week we went out to our cabin lot to collect some material for my dyeing experiments.  We are constantly battling the alders which move in quickly after any clearing.  I think my husband was quite agreeable to cutting some alder sticks for me to use as dyestuff.  Our alder is Alnus rugosa (Du Roi) Spreng, the speckled alder.

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our harvest of alder stems

our harvest of alder stems

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Yesterday, I sat on our deck to peel the bark from the alder sticks.  I was acclimatized to the orange dye I expected from the alders by the leavings of last autumn – the piles of dry maple leaves still on the deck and the bright sienna of my terra cotta pots.

The alders peel easily, revealing a bright green inner bark.  The green quickly oxidizes to a bright orange, due to the presence of the chemical oregonin.  By the end of the debarking session, my jean were stained dark orange and my palms of my hands were covered in the colour of tangerines.

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my hand, bright orange after peeling the alders

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I was glad to have moved my dyeing adventures out to the back deck because the smell was quite acrid.   As I boiled the bark, the water became a dark orange.

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orange colour resulting from boiling the alder bark

orange colour resulting from boiling the alder bark

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I simmered my length of alum-treated wool roving in the liquid for about an hour.

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wool simmering in the orange alder water - looks like sky and clouds are in there too!

wool simmering in the orange alder water – looks like sky and clouds are in there too!

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Although it is not orange, the colour is a pleasing yellowish-brown, similar to but more yellow than the colour obtained from Old Man’s Beard lichen.

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wool dyed with ( left to right) alder bark, lichen and beets

wool dyed with ( left to right) alder bark, lichen and beets

 

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Now that the warm weather is here, I am looking forward to more hours on the deck, watching over my concoctions and seeing more colours emerge!!!

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Copyright  2014  Jane Tims 

 

Written by jane tims

May 16, 2014 at 1:26 pm

8 Responses

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  1. The natural colors you are coming up with are beautiful. 🙂

    Like

    Robin

    May 19, 2014 at 8:58 am

    • Hi. I love the softness of the colours. I lack the skill to do even tones, but I am very please with the results. Once I get my loom set up, I am going to put the wool into a project of some sort, probably a small rug. Jane

      Like

      jane tims

      May 20, 2014 at 10:13 am

  2. It’s easy to take for granted all of the colors we see in the products around us- they took hard work to come up with back in the day!

    Like

    Watching Seasons

    May 19, 2014 at 7:59 am

    • Hi. It’s hard to imagine doing everything from scratch. I don’t know if we could. Jane

      Like

      jane tims

      May 20, 2014 at 10:11 am

  3. Great pictures. . . I’m enjoying vicariously following your dying experiments.

    Like

    Sheryl

    May 17, 2014 at 8:54 am

    • I am having enough fun for us both. I wonder if they used plant dyes in Helena’s day. Jane

      Like

      jane tims

      May 18, 2014 at 6:34 pm

  4. I’m enjoying your experiments…

    Like

    kiwiskan

    May 16, 2014 at 4:43 pm

    • Great! My aim is to build a rainbow of colours. I think blue will be the challenge. Jane

      Like

      jane tims

      May 18, 2014 at 6:32 pm


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