Mad In Pursuit Notebook

sink and linen, fresh from cranberry dye bath

Dyeing for Cranberries.

Tuesday, 11.18.2014. Learning by doing. Bag of cranberries in back of freezer from last year. Use them for color? Why not. I did find a web page that gave me some basic instruction. This is one of those "fun for the holidays" projects you can do with kids, age 4-8.

Saturday. I cooked the cranberries in water for a couple hours and netted about a quart of "dye." Meanwhile, I soaked a white silk scarf in 50/50 vinegar and water to brighten the color and help make it more permanent. When I was ready, I strained the cranberries out through an old linen handkerchief and poured the juice over my "pre-mordanted" silk.

Then, what the heck, I mixed a little alum and cream of tartar with the rest of the juice and poured it over the linen handkerchief. (Smaller jar in photo below.) I read that vinegar brings out reds and alum brings out blues.

cranberry dye baths

If you drop cranberry sauce on a linen napkin, you wash it quickly before the stain can "set." With dyeing, you do the opposite. I let my cloth marinate in the juice for three days.

Tuesday. Today I released the fabric from their jars and squeezed the liquid out (no rinsing yet!). Photo at top... still wet.

The almost dry results are below -- a rosy pink, lovely if you're into pink. The linen is a shade paler, which was expected, but the alum didn't bring out any blue tones. (I can see why the Europeans were so excited when the 16th-century Mexicans finally gave them a dye that produced a true and lightfast RED -- cochineal.)

linen and silk with cranberry dye

I will wait another few days before I rinse the cloth and iron it -- the color may fade a bit more when I do that.

Meanwhile, I learned a lesson by mistake. I hung the cloth over my shower bar to dry. When I took them down to take a photo, I discovered that the chrome bar had changed the color where it touched the fabric -- you can see it on the edge of the fold on the scarf above/right. It might be greenish, but it looks gray next to the pink. Rats. I have only read about "auxiliaries" (aka post-mordants) but here was an example of introducing a reactive metal (aluminum? iron? tin?) to a dyed piece to modify the color.

Like all my other mistakes, the evidence becomes part of the "cloth as journal."