First Natural Dye Test: Hearts a Burstin (outer pods)

At some point in college one of my friends took a natural dye workshop. I have no idea why I didn’t take it, but I remember swooning over her notebook full of little swatches. The muted, earthy tones that you get from most natural dyes are exactly the colors I love (reason #62 that I’m ready for this silly 80’s neon craze to pass). I was in love and knew that one day I would try my hand at some natural dyes.

When we moved back to the farm last March, I knew the time had come. I’ve been gathering the materials I needed to get going and this week I did my first test batch with natural dyes!

ImageRemember those Hearts A Burstin? I saved a handful, separated the berries from the pods (? I have no idea if that is the correct term here, but it seems right) , and soaked them for about a week. The berries are still soaking waiting their turn at a test. This is what the jar with the pods looked like after one week.


The bright pink coloring was drab and the water was very murky. From this point I boiled them to extract as much color as possible.


Then I threw in a few little fabric bits. I didn’t mess with straining out the plant pieces. Since this was just a test I had no idea if I would get any color at all, or if it would actually stay on the fabric once it was rinsed.


The fabric soaked in the dye bath for about 16 hours at which point I brought it to a boil again and soaked another 12+ hours. Here is what I got.

This first picture shows silk noil. On the right is a piece that had been treated with alum (I followed the directions in Wild Color omitting the Cream of Tartar, because I didn’t have any on hand). On the left is a piece that had not been treated and they are both laying on a piece that has not been dyed.


And this picture is kona cotton. It had not been mordanted and it too is laying on undyed fabric of the same type.


The results were exactly what I expected based on what I’ve read. Animal fibers take the dye better than plant and mordants really do help.

I’m not sure if I’ll use these for dye again, but I’ve got about a year to decide since there aren’t very many left. I think the best part about using these is that the kids can enjoy gathering them with me.

Next up, I have an oak leaf dye bath going and it is looking pretty promising. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the fabric really keeps the color once rinsed. Come back next week and I’ll show you.


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