Emily Explains: Dyeing Yarn with Pokeberries

This past weekend I spent the day exploring one of my favorite places – Beavertail State Park in Jamestown, RI. It has magical pathways that lead to small coves along the coastline filled with bunnies, butterflies and flowering trees. I know it sounds too good to be true, but trust me… this place is the a hidden gem! As I was driving into the park, I was even more excited because I spotted pokeberries along the road. I recognized them immediately from reading one of my favorite natural dyeing books, Harvesting Color by Rebecca Burgess.

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I had a picnic at one of my favorite coves, jumped in the ocean, bundled up in wool and began walking along the paths in search of the pokeberries. It was time to forage. I found it easy to spot the pokeberries by keeping my eye out for their bright pink and magenta stalks. They remind me a bit of rhubarb with dark small purple berries that hang down similar to the way grapes hang.

I carefully pulled off just the stalks of berries and put them in a plastic baggy. Every once and a while a berry would burst in my hand revealing its iridescent hot pink/magenta pigment. I drove home with two plastic shopping bags full with pokeberries!

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Referring to Harvesting Color, I removed the berries from the stem, placing them in my stainless dye pot and crushed them with my hands. (I wore plastic gloves, but I’m not sure you need to). I added water and vinegar (all I had at home was apple cider vinegar and I think it worked fine) and placed it on my stove top on low heat.

While my berry mixture was on the stove, I placed two skeins of Berroco Abode and one skein of Lang Donegal  – both in the Natural colorway – into a water and vinegar mordant to soak.

I left my berries on low heat and my yarn in the mordant for 1 hour. I strained the berries out of the dye bath so that just the pigment remained and added my mordanted yarn to the dye bath. After two hours on low heat, I turned off the burner, leaving my yarn to sit in the dye bath overnight.

The next morning I rinsed my yarn in cool water until no more color was running and hung it to dry.

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I’m amazed at the color that was produced! The yarn truly glows. The abode came out in a  a hot magenta but also seems to have a blue halo shimmering around it too.The Donegal came out a much softer pink in comparison, but a truly beautiful color. I am always amazed by natural dyes, but pokeberries really take the cake.

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Donegal
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Donegal swatch
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Abode
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Abode swatch

Moreton and Lawson are both two skein projects that I’m considering knitting with my pokeberry yarn! Or maybe I will knit Amy’s Van Der Zee Cloche again : )

I hope this inspires you to try natural dying!

Emily

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