Dyeing with Sumac berries

Sumac tree and berries

I am not a fan of dyeing with berries! Generally the colours aren’t fast and if we’re talking edible berries, I would much rather eat them. Sumac trees are a new discovery in my dye pot and to be honest, I hadn’t paid any attention to them on the road sides until I heard about their dye potential. They have high levels of tannins in the bark and leaves. The leaves can have 10-25% percent tannins and can be used in other dye baths to improve colourfastness.

Yarn dyed with old sumac berries

In the spring I dyed a small, 10g skein with 7 berry clusters. These were all from the previous summer and had shrivelled and turned dark. I used a 100 % superwash BFL for my experiment. The berries dyed my skein a beautiful brown which I was hoping to recreate.

So last week I collected 16 berry clusters to dye with. My hands were covered with pollution as the tree I chose is by a main road. I soaked them overnight and then simmered for an hour. Now the liquid in my dye pot was bright burgundy! I measured the ph which was 7. I hadn’t mordanted my yarn as my assumption was the berries were also rich in tannins and only soaked my yarn in water before adding it into the dyepot. The skein turned beautiful dusty pink. This was an utter surprise as my previous experiment was brown. Obviously the dye liquid should’ve given some indication on the colour, but with berries it’s hard to tell as the colour in them is water-soluble, but doesnt attach to fibres easily.

Yarn dyed with sumac berries

I deciced to try iron to modify the colour and see how the skein would react. The colour immediatly darkened to a gorgeous purple/grey with only a few minute dip in a 10% iron solution.

Sumac berries and Iron

There are quite few Sumac trees near me and next I’m planning to dye with the leaves as well as store some to use for tannins.


3 thoughts on “Dyeing with Sumac berries

  1. I dyed with some sumac last year and again this year, I found that waiting til the leaves were gold or red gave the best colours. Can’t wait to read more of your dye adventures xx


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