Dyeing with locally foraged pine cones

During a recent local walk, I came across a lot of pine cones on the floor that had fallen from a big tree. I decided to pick up several of them and experiment dyeing with them at home.

I had read that tree bark and cones are rich in tannins which means the dyed item should hopefully be more colourfast so I thought these cones would be great to dye with.

The pine cones were quite hard so I ended up pouring boiling water over them in a bowl and soaking them for approximately 2 weeks, stirring occasionally. My aim by soaking them was to soften them enough so that dye would be extracted.

I didn’t find that much dye had been extracted in the bowl after 2 weeks, so I decided to add the water and pine cones to an aluminium pot and added more water to fully cover the pine cones. I heated them on a fairly high heat for approximately an hour and a half.

Once cooled, I sieved the pine cone dye though some cheese cloth into a bowl. I then added the concentrated dye back to the dye pot and heated again for approximately an hour and a half.

I left the dye in the pot for a couple of days before adding some wool and an organic cotton t-shirt and heated the pot up again on a gentle simmer:

When I added the wool and t-shirt, I found there was insufficient water for the t-shirt to float around in so I added some more water to hopefully get an even colour and avoid any spot staining in case it fell to the bottom of the dye pot.

After a couple of days I hung the t-shirt and wool to dry outside in the shade and here are the results:

The pine cone dye had produced a type of oat colour and I really liked the shade.

Initially I was surprised at the colour since I had read that some pines and bark produce deep browns, which these pine cones clearly didn’t do.

I also wonder if it depends on how you pre-mordant your fabric/wool. I didn’t use any mordants as such. I just pre-treated my t-shirt and wool in a soya milk/water solution several weeks before dyeing them.

I will now leave the wool and t-shirt to rest in a cupboard for at least a week before rinsing to hopefully keep the dye as colour fast as possible.

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