Autumn harvest

This is my favourite time of year because not only is it my birthday month but it’s harvest time: nuts, corn, berries, turning leaves: all so vital to my work and also a reminder of the changing seasons and that it’s time to prepare for the coming winter.

The acorn is a favourite of mine – such a pretty little thing that’s so full of magic.

A fairy hat or cup, a potential tree, a source of food and it’s also full of colour… go for a walk and gather.

I love to dye with acorns – they are full of tannin so using them on cotton is easy and it’s colourfast. You can also dye first in acorn and then colour with another plant dye to achieve a stronger faster shade. An acorn dye bath is not that exciting – it turns out a kind of stripy-beige. BUT, the moment your acorn-dyed cloth comes in contact with rusted iron, magic happens! That dull off-brown changes into a pale blue-grey and then a deep inky blue black… it’s amazing to watch.

Acorn colour – neat and with iron

An iron solution sounds complicated- but it’s not. All you need is a few old rusty objects, white or apple vinegar, water and a week or so. That’s it! I have a big jar always on the go that i just top up routinely.

On to the dye…

Acorn Dye with Iron 

*500g acorns per 100g fabric

*Natural fibre cloth: ie cotton, silk or wool that has been washed without any fabric softener

*Pre-made rusted iron solution

Fill a large pot with water and acorns. You will want enough water to cover your fabric and allow it to move freely. Heat the water and acorns on a light simmer for 1-2 hours to extract the tannin colour. Leave overnight if you can. Strain.

Fill another pot with iron solution and enough water to cover fabric. This will be what you dip your cloth in after dyeing.

Wet your fabric and squeeze out excess. Add to the dye vat. Lower the temperature and heat for 20-45 minutes. Remove, allow it to drip and then add it gently to the iron solution pot. Let it sit for 10 minutes. Remove from the iron solution and see if the shade is to your liking. At this point, you can alternate between the acorn dye and iron in 5 minutes intervals to deepen the colour to black.

Once the fabric is dyed, squeeze excess dye out and hang dry for 1 hour. Then, wash in cool water with natural soap to remove any lingering dye and dry. All done!

Acorn and iron silk stole
Acorn and iron shibori dyed vintage silk cami top

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