Testing the colour from Barberry

For a quite a while I’ve known that Barberry (Berberis vulgaris) has bright yellow bark and I’ve been keen to test their dye properties. Luckily enough, a few days ago I heard that my neighbours were cutting down their barberry bushes, so I used the opportunity to harvest some bark.

The bright yellow of Barberry Barberry wood

After soaking some bark in water (just enough to cover the bark) overnight.
Extracting the dye from barberry bark

I let the pot simmer for about an hour before I removed the bark to avoid uneven dyeing and plant matters in the fabrics. Fabrics soaked in water and then immersed. For each test I dissolved less than half a teaspoon alum and iron, and for the copper mordants I used a copper plate (any piece of copper will do, or even a copper pot if available – the old New Zealand 10 cent coin contains copper as well). These mordents help to fix the colour into the fabric.

CLoth added to the barberry to dye

I left the fabrics in the pot till the next morning and here are the results:

Image5  Barberry dyed fibres

Colour swatches from the barberry dying experiment

I did some shibori resist dye (ne-maki shibori) on the merino fabric, using kowhai seeds. The yellow of the inner circle seems to be stronger, so I assume that the kowhai seeds released some dye as well, love the delicate pattern.

shibori resist dye (ne-maki shibori) on the merino fabric, using barberry and kowhai seeds  barberry and kowhai shibori

Through my research I found out that the berries are also edible (a sour taste) and also can be used to dye fibres. I will have to wait till autumn to harvest some of those berries. You will hear from me!
I am really pleased with the depth of tone and will certainly use it for coming projects.

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