Natural Dyeing with Brandywine Viburnum Berries

You know I love to dye, but I’ve never been a fan of natural dyeing except for Indigo. I’ve been seeing a lot of natural dyeing lately so I thought I’d try it again, and include a little tutorial. There are lots of ways to dye naturally. This is just one way.

Since Brandywine Viburnum berries are plentiful, what a better plant to dye with. Here is one our three plants. It’s about 8 or so feet tall!

Here are the berries I harvested for my dyeing. Aren’t they pretty?

Below is the list of what you will need to do this dyeing:

  • Viburnum berries
  • Natural fabrics – silk and silk blends work best, but you can dye cotton
  • Alum – Aluminum Sulfate
  • Baking Soda
  • Pan to simmer berries and fabric, and heat source (stove)
  • Buckets for mordant
  • Stick or something to use to stir the pot

But before we can do any dyeing, we need to prep the fabric. With any dyeing you need a mordant which fixes the dye to the fabric. If you don’t use one, you will lose most of your color in the initial wash, and over time. For this session we are using these two products as mordants.

First you need to make the alum bath. Fill your container with hot tap water, then add 2 rounded teaspoons of alum. Stir until it dissolves. Add the fabric to the Alum water, stir occasionally and let soak for 45 minutes or so.

Then in another pot add boiling water. Add 1 teaspoon of baking soda, stir. Remove the fabric from the Alum bath, squeezing out the excess water. Place the Alum soaked fabric into the baking soda solution. Leave the fabric in that baking soda solution for 15-30 minutes or so and remove. Rinse lightly and take to the dye bath. I just left the fabric in the bath while I worked on the dye bath. Of course, you can start the dye bath earlier if you’d like.

For the dye bath add the berries to the water and simmer for an hour.

After that time, add your wet fabric.

Simmer for an hour, and then allow the bath to cool.

I took my dye pot to the dye studio and just let the fabric sit in the pot until the next day. This is what my fabric looked like after 24 hours in the pot.

I took it out of the bath and washed it on the gentle cycle. I dried it in the dryer until it was just damp, and then ironed it.

I’ve found that silk always takes the natural dye better than cotton. The top two pieces are silk, and the bottom one is cotton.

It’s beautiful, but I don’t really use silk much. Also, it is stinky when it’s cooking. I have a couple old posts where I dyed with plants. One was perilla which you can see here.  I dyed with blackberries on this post. And if you really want to do something stinky, make some hosta paper. Here is that tutorial. It’s always fun to try something new, but doing that just confirms to me that it’s not what I want to do. Well, at least not right now!!

Lots going on but nothing to post yet. Have a great weekend. Would love to hear you feelings and experiences with natural dyeing. You might change my mind!