Pioneer Woman at Heart

One Flourishing, Frugal and Fun Family!

One family learning to live off the land, cut back on expenses, and to live a simpler and a more self-sufficient lifestyle.

Adopted Motto

"Eat it up,
Wear it out,
Make it do,
Or go without."
~A Pioneer Sampler, by Barbara Greenwood~

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


In all the strange places pokeberries can be growing, I found them in the loft of one of our barns.  We don't use this part, as it needs major repairs.  

I was walking around the property last week and saw these and thought they would make a nice color to dye yarn with.  After doing my research on the wildflowers on our property, I found out that pokeberry juice can be used to write with also.  In fact, I was told the Declaration of Independence was possibly written with it.  I'm not sure if that's completely true, but found it interesting.  Pokeberry is poisonous and I removed a few that had grown near or in my garden this year.

Last week I got out the ladder and had one of the kids help me pick a bag full of these berries.  Did you know you can actually freeze these and dye with them later?  

I could not locate a local farmer who spins their own wool, so I purchased wool yarn.

I chose to use a safe mordant for my yarn.  I mixed a 50/50 solution of white distilled vinegar and water.  I heated my designated cook pot to a temperature that was just before boiling.  I did not boil, as this is wool.  I let the pot simmer for about one hour, then let it sit overnight.  I did not dry my yarn, and I saved the solution for the dye.

 Wool yarn after it sat overnight.

 Wool yarn drying after rinsing it.

I mashed the pokeberries with a potato masher, then ran that through a fine metal strainer, smashing out every bit of pokeberry juice.  I then discarded my stems, and poured my leftover 50/50 vinegar/water solution into the juice.  I heated that with the wool yarn and solution to the point where I saw the solution bubbling.  I did not boil it.  From what I have read, the temperature of the pot will be what decides the color you end up with.

I let the pot sit overnight again, and rinsed it out the next day.  I placed the yarn on an old towel to dry.  I have read that you should not place this out in the sun to dry, so it dried inside.  That particular day it was extremely windy and raining.

I plan to crochet or knit with it, but have not decided on my project yet.  I am very excited about the color and cannot wait to try other natural dyes. 

I think this farm could use a few sheep to spin wool with. 


The 3 Foragers said...

The very early shoots of poke are edible in spring, but the rest of the plant is quite toxic. The color you achieved from the berries is spectacular! Does using the vinegar make the color set? Black walnut hulls can be used to dye fabric, along with some mushrooms. Karen

Kristina said...

Thanks for the tips Karen. The vinegar solution helps the color stay. I found out that pokeberry is not too good to dye fabric with. It turns out to be more of a stain then a color, and it washes off fast. I found out that wool holds the color very well. I do have a black walnut tree on the property. We have yet to do anything with it. I better get on that huh?

Candy C. said...

Your yarn turned out just beautiful! I can't wait to see what you end up making with it!

Unknown said...

Gorgeous color, wow!!!