Dyeing with Sumac leaves

Earlier this month I continued my experiments on the sumac trees near my home. This time I moved on to dyeing with leaves.

Sumac trees in October

I gathered a bagful of leaves to dye a 50g skein of yarn. I forgot to weigh my leaves, silly mistake as I wish I knew how much I had exactly. I simmered the leaves for an hour, checked the PH and it was 7 and strained the liquid. I added a skein of unmordanted yarn ( no need for mordanting as sumac leaves are full of tannins – sometimes they can have up to 25% tannins) raised the temperature to 80 and kept it there for an hour.

Unmordanted sumac leaf dyed skein

The result was very much ‘dyer’s beige’ and a bit of a disappointment. I had seen some gorgeous yellow colours my friend Jules (@woollenflower) had dyed and was hoping to achieve those.
But I am not one to dis-recard a humble beige and will keep the skein for over dyeing experiments.

And I even dyed with sumac leaves again last week. I collected about 800g of leaves in an ambitious attempt to dye 300g of yarn for a vest I wanted to knit. I used the same method as before, but dipped my skeins in a 10% iron solution for 5 minutes afterwards. The colour turned a darker grey/brown which I am happy with.

Skeins dyed with sumac leaves and iron

This doesn’t mean I’m giving up on achieving the illuminacent yellow I’ve seen. After talking about it to Jules, I am going to triple my dye material and see if that has any affect. Stay tuned…


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