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 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.
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!
Published: March 29, 2016 | Filed under: Home