Natural Dyeing Experiments: Pomegranate

After my high hopes for Dyer’s Camomile were somewhat dashed, I wavered as to whether pomegranate should be my next experiment. The colour swatches in Wild Colour by Jenny Dean seemed a little muddy and off putting compared to the vibrant yellows of Dyers Camomile which had attracted me, but I had failed to achieve. I think it was actually the thought of yet more beige that was lurking in the back of my mind that was holding me back, hell it was pretty much up there centre front, to be honest.

But the alum I had ordered hadn’t arrived,

and pomegranate doesn’t need a mordant,

and I had last years collected and dried fallen juvenile pomegranates and a few dried skins,

and the pomegranate trees were blossoming, setting and dropping fruits,

so I thought I should give it a go and see if it is worth collecting them or not…

A picture showing pomegrante blossoms and the first stages of fruit formation
Pomegranate blossom and immature fruits forming

I was very blasé about my dyestuff. Jenny Dean recommends using half the weight of dyestuff to fibre, but mine were old and dried and had got damp during the winter due to my own carelessness and I wasn’t sure if the small fruits would have the same level of tannin as older mature fruit skins so I decided to use all my 280g of dried old fruits and skins….

a picture of small half formed pomegranate fruits dried for dyeing
Dried year old immature fruits collected as they fell from the tree

I had spent quite a bit of time with dyestuffs on the stove to this point so with the weather having improved in the days before I embarked on this experiment, I decided I’d see if I could use the sun to my advantage instead.

I added 280g of old dried fruit to a large glass jar and covered it with 2 litres of boiling water. As the water came into contact with the dried dyestuff it immediately began to colour. I put the lid on and left it out in the sun

After 2 hours the colour was a strong amber so I decided to decant 1/2 a litre of the liquid added a 20g skein of unmordanted superwash wool and left it to sit in the sun for a couple of hours as I was doing something else.

Then I added a 1/4 of a litre of water and heated it to a low simmer and simmered it for an hour. Before rinsing and drying the yarn and returning the leftover dyebath, which still had colour, to the jar of steeping pomegranate.

I’m calling this gold, not beige. Its a good strong colour too.

a single skein of gold yarn photographed on a terracotta window sill
Day one, steeped dyebath

I liked this so much the next day I did a little more:

I decanted 1 litre from the jar in which the pomegranates had been steeping for a day and overnight, added a little extra water.

I then added another 1 x 20g skein of superwash wool and an 18g skein of Susan Crawford’s Ghyll yarn (undyed) which is a sportweight 100% lonk wool.

I used the Ghyll lonk yarn for my FUBC 2 shawl design and loved it so wanted to see how it would take the dye as I have a couple of full undyed skeins…

I put the pan on the stove an heated it to a low simmer and kept it there for about an hour and a half then left it to cool and then rinsed and dried the yarn.

The left over dye went back into the jar.

A picture showing 3 skeins of pomegranate naturally dyed yarn against a background of dried pomegranates
Left: Day 1 Steep, Middle day 2 steep and simmer, Right: Ghyll day 2 steep and simmer

The superwash skein again took the yarn really well and It’s darker than the skein made from the liquid from the shorter steep. The Ghyll also took the dye really nicely, although it has come out a little paler then the superwash wool, closer to the day one yarn

The observant among you will be wondering what happened to the jar of steeping dyestuff. Well life got busy and almost 2 weeks later I was looking at the jar outside and it looked a little fizzy…

This is Ok, fermentation dyeing is a technique in itself but it isn’t one I’d been planning to try just at this minute. Instead:

I decanted the dye in the jar – approx a litre and a half and then put the leftover dye material in the pan and covered it with water – almost immediately it was clear that there was still a lot of colour in the dye materials.

I put the pan on the heat and did the usual slow heat to a simmer, simmer for an hour and then let cool and sit overnight.

The next morning I strained the liquid, bottled it, and then topped it up with water and repeated the process three more times.

In total I had approximately 4 1/2 litres of dye liquid from the 280g of old dried immature fruits and skins. I had already dyed approx 60g of yarn, but at a ratio of 50% dyestuff to fibre I should still have been able to dye about 500g of yarn assuming fermentation and boiling doesn’t adversely affected that calculation!

I was wary of committing that much fibre to an experiment, especially since I had no specific plans that involved 500g of pomegranate dyed yarn. What I do have however is 400g of undyed corriedale yarn which I bought at Woolfest some years ago. I know I love this yarn as I’ve used Old Maiden Aunt hand dyed Corriedale sport for my Badbury shawl which I wore all the time until I tore the garter stitch edge. It’s now fixed and back in rotation as a transitional shawl but my tastes have expanded into even bigger shawls for deep winter use. So I thought I’d start with 1 x 100g skein of this yarn and see how it goes. I was concerned that I may need to layer up the colour so I didn’t want to put lots of yarn in and get an underwhelming paler colour than I was looking for – deep amber was my aim…

The soaked Corriedale was added to 1 1/2 litres of decanted rather than boil extracted dye solution. I brought this up to a simmer, simmered it for an hour and then let it cool and sit overnight.

The next morning I wrung it out and it was a little paler than I was hoping for:

a skein of pale gold yarn
The first stage of dyeing

I put it back in the pan with the remaining dye and topped it up with almost a litre from the first boil extraction. Again I heated it up to a low simmer and kept it at that heat for just over and hour, turned it off, let it cool, left it overnight in the dyebath. The next morning I rinsed it and then dried it to get a true sense of the colour.

The colour is deeper and more golden. For a while I couldn’t decide whether to go for an additional round in the dye pot, but in the end I decided to stick with what I had. It’s certainly a warmer more golden toned colour than I had imagined the pomegranates would produce.

The leftover dye has been bottled and I’m actually wondering about trying it on vegetable fibres….

What do you think – should I have tried to go darker with this skein, or is this about what you’d expect?

Needless to say, I’ve started collecting up the fallen immature pomegranates for more dyeing in the future…

Until next time (what a revelation that is!) take care,

Tess xxx

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