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Sunday, 7 December 2014

Autumn Leaves

I've been meaning to try dyeing with apple leaves for a while, but in the meantime autumn crept up on me.  I think the leaves are probably better in spring, but, nothing tried, nothing gained.  And they did have some lovely colours in there

which I thought might add a bit of depth to the dye.

The leaves were boiled up for an hour or so, left overnight, and then strained.  Jenny Dean's Wild Colour says that no mordant is needed for apple leaves (probably because of the tannin content) but I wasn't quite sure I'd get a good result that way.  In the end I split the fleece (merino) into two piles, mordanted one lot with alum, and left the other natural.

The natural (no mordant) was a bit disappointing.

Not even a nice beige!

The mordanted fleece was better, with a definite yellow tinge, but still a bit disappointing.

The fleece is still wet here, just out of the dye bath, so that's why it looks a bit felted.

I decided to give the two lots of fleece a quick after dip in ammonia, so poured a glug into a bowl of water, swished it round, and then added the wool.  This worked like a dream with the mordanted fleece - it turned into a rich, acidic yellow - but the beige was still beige afterwards, just a bit darker with a few highlights.

Here are the two results once they had dried :-

The ammonia did manage to turn the unmordanted fleece a nicer colour, but it's still beige.  Nothing wrong with beige if you like that colour, and I don't dislike it, but I've got lots of beige fleece from previous dye sessions that went wrong didn't quite reach expectations.  This one will probably be over-dyed with woad, which I have to pick very soon before we get any serious frosts.

Today I started to card the yellow, and it's really looking quite good :-

You can almost see the sunshine the leaves have absorbed all summer!


  1. Nice result with the ammonia i never herd of that ,but it definitely works i have to try it next time i do some colouring. Thank you for the tip.

    1. Yes, it's a good idea to try this before over-dyeing with something else. If it has no effect, try vinegar.

    2. I meant heard not a mob of cattle. I have to read it before i post.

    3. Ha ha - it's OK, I knew exactly what you meant!

  2. August has been a good time for leaves for me, especially birch. Another ammonia trick is to add it to the dye bath while the plants are in, leave it to cool till the next day. For some reason the pH has then gone down, which is better for the wool, but you still have the colour enhancement from the ammonia.

    1. Good tip - I'm always a little worried the wool might be damaged so I never leave it in for long.