Natural Dyeing Experiments: Quince leaves

The mature quince tree we have in the garden is a continual source of joy and pleasure. It has sculptural presence that provides shade in the summer and the oh, so sweet smell of ripening quinces as autumn becomes winter. Whilst the fruits become jam, jelly or marmellata/membrillo/cheese, I was keen to see if the leaves would work as a dye source, and oh my, it really didn’t disappoint.

I had explored the potential of Quince and found this interesting source:

Cerempei et al. explored the potential of quince leaf dye in a paper available via Researchgate based on fallen autumn leaves that were collected dried and broken up then heated in solution to extract dye at a range of temperatures. Their dyes produced colours ranging from light beige to red brown.

Beyond this however, the internet threw up few references to quince dyeing, but based on the fact that quince are in the same family as apples and pears which can be used to dye, I decided to go ahead and give it a try.

It was earlier in the summer and one of the gardening jobs generated by quince trees is to prune back the shoots that spring from around the base of the trunk.

The unruly base of the quince tree

These young leaves are much finer than the older leaves on more mature parts of the trees and I was concerned that they wouldn’t have enough tannin or colour to effectively dye. That said, I figured I’d only know if I tried, so I collected up my clippings:

The trimmings from around the base

I decided to strip the leaves from the twigs, chopped 100g of them very roughly, put them in a jar and cover them with 2 1/2 litres of boiling water:

Leaves covered with boiling water and left outside in the sun to marinate

Then they sat for almost 3 weeks because life got in the way.

When I came back to them I decanted off the liquid for the first dyebath and then topped up the jar again covering the leaves with boiling water. I Put 20g of alum mordanted superwash wool into the first dyebath and brought it up to a low simmer, kept it there for about 30 minutes and then left it to cool overnight.

The next morning the yarn was a pale yellow/light amber colour and I wondered if it would take more colour if re-heated as there appeared to be quite a bit of colour left in the dyebath. So I decanted the liquid I’d poured over the leaves in the jar, and added it to the dyebath and put it on heat and brought it up to a simmer and left it there for about 45 minutes the second time. Tthe colour appeared to have deepened. I left the yarn in the dye to cool overnight and then rinsed it. I love the final colour, it’s a lovely warm orange:

Quince dyed yarn with a quince fruit

In fact I loved it so much that I decided to follow the same process and dye a full skein of corriedale skein with quince. As has been the case previously, this non-superwash corriedale doesn’t take the colour quite so well, and is a little more muted as you can see in picture below:

Quince on non-superwash corriedaale below, superwash wool above.

I’ll definitely be dyeing with young quince leaves again. I feel like I should also try using older leaves, but the prospect of them only producing browns and beiges is a little less appealing than this orange. This colour is certainly a reason to look forward to one of those routine garden tidying jobs, we may have the best kept quince tree in the neighbourhood!

Until next time, take care,

Tess xxx


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.