March 29, 2016


February Grey

During the month of February, the little one and I tried our hand at making natural grey dyes. There were many ideas online to think about, but only a couple we could expect to find locally. All month I hunted for black walnuts, since we have a few trees in our neighborhood, but being out of season, we came up empty--I even offered to gather rotting shells from under backyard trees, maybe that was creepy of me since no one gave me the thumbs up?!

However, we had great luck with a dye made from oak galls, acorn tannins, and iron from a rusted vise. 

Oak Gall Dye

Oak galls have long been used as a source of tannin, ink, and dye. The gall is actually made by the oak tree, to protect it from an egg-laying wasp, and you can find them throughout our area, distributed on the forest floor, under and around oak trees.

The little one and I took our breakfast to a nearby park that is filled with oaks--so we drank hot chocolate and gathered galls and acorns, and let the puppy roam. I love homeschooling!

Later we smashed up the galls with a giant stick the puppy had carted home, we boiled the mess in a pot, and things were looking very un-grey with the first napkin, so we found a vise in the garage, split the dye bath and added it to the mix with a second napkin.

This was my first time adding iron to any of our dye mixes, and really you shouldn't just put a rusted anything in the dye mix, especially with cloth present. But I'm working with a ten-year-old boy, and we wanted to see some magic color transforming happen. The move paid off. Very grey. Very awesome. We like the rust stains.

Oak Gall Ink

Knowing that oak galls used to be one of the main forms of black ink, we simply boiled down our dye to see what might come of it. According to all the recipes, we were missing gum arabic, and the mix was supposed to cure over a couple of weeks, which we didn't find out until later. Oh, well. We pulled out other inks, and played with a glass fountain pen. Super fun for a Friday morning...


On to March, and red!

Cheers, friends...



Published: March 29, 2016 | Filed under: Home

Comments (6)
GretchenJoanna said:
March 29, 2016 @ 9:21 AM

What fun! I don't often think about oak galls these days, but when I was a child a huge oak tree towered above our house and it often had galls that we played with and the dogs chewed on. But the making of ink was not on anyone's mind in those days!

jane g meyer replied:
March 29, 2016 @ 5:41 PM

Aren't oak trees magical? I love their rough, dark bark, the rambling ways the branches move toward the sky, and all the creatures that live in and around them... How wonderful that you had a tree right in your midst during your childhood!

Tracie Garacochea said:
March 29, 2016 @ 9:40 AM

i want to play too! looks like a ton of fun!

jane g meyer replied:
March 29, 2016 @ 5:42 PM

Knowing you, Tracie, you would create something so awesomely wonderful if you start fiddling with dyes. Please share your stories and adventures if you do...

Kh. Tammy said:
March 30, 2016 @ 4:20 AM

Dear Jane, Will you take another student?!!!!! Please give your sweet JR a big hug and kiss for me. He is beautiful. Love, me

Martha said:
March 30, 2016 @ 4:37 AM

I like the photo of your son mashing them with a log...experiments like this are always the most fun! ♥ On to red?!!

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