Oak Galls

I’m a little obsessed with oak galls. It’s all about mordanting. See, after doing that oak leaf bath I realized that mordanting really does get deeper colors. But I had only mordanted some of my silk. In order to mordant vegetable fibers with alum you need tannin. Enter oak galls. According to Wild Color Oak Galls are a good source of tannin and they give minimal color to the fabric, thus altering your ultimate dye bath less. The other top choice mentioned in Wild Color is Staghorn Sumac. I’ve had trouble locating any, but I did find a plethora of Smooth Sumac in our area and my first attempt with that is under way. There is also tannin in oak leaves, acorns, and bark as well as other types of bark. This is why many of these things can be used pretty successfully to dye even without mordanting.

I really have no idea how to locate oak galls, except to look for oak leaves and then check the branches. Large trees do me no good because I can’t reach the branches where the oak galls would be so I’ve been looking for little sapplings as the kids and I walk. I haven’t been able to really venture into the woods, since there are 3 small people glued to me the bulk of the day (seriously I think mom’s have some sort of magnetic property), so I just look along the road.

Last week I spotted a branch with three marble sized galls, and it was just out of reach. These things can get to be 1 to 2 inches in size, but marble size is about the biggest I’ve found. Everytime we walked past that tree the galls would taunt me. I’m not kidding. They were brutal. But then, as more leaves fell from the tree I realized another nearby branch had more! I got Carson to snag them for me and added 9 galls to my collection. Of course moments later I spotted another out of reach gall. Will the taunting ever stop!?Image

Here’s my entire collection to date. That is a saucer by the way. You use these things based on weight and they are not too heavy so it’s going to be a while before I have enough to do anything with, but I’m enjoying the obsession collecting. Image

Oak Galls are actually caused by wasps laying eggs. It really is crazy. You can read more about the forming of oak galls here.

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