Dyeing with Bracken

Whenever I stray away from my normal surroundings, I try and find a bit of time to explore what nature has to offer and find plants to dye with. Travelling back from Finland, my bags were full of plants to dry and freeze for the winter and my recent visit to the Lake District was no different.

Whilst walking along the hillside I found the forest floors covered in Bracken (Pteridium aquilinum). It grows here and there in London. Richmond Park has large areas full of ferns, but as it’s a Royal Park, foraging is not allowed.

It took me a few days after getting home to start dyeing with Bracken. I had collected a bagful and was interested in doing experiments with modifiers. I had seen Jenny Dean getting some interesting colour results. I dyed 4 skeins of merino singles with the bath; all pre mordanted with alum. I had 80 grams of yarn in total and 600 of bracken. The leaves were simmered for an hour, strained and yarn added in for another hour. The PH for the water was neutral.

I then used three different modifiers; citric acid to lower the PH, soda ash for a higher PH and iron each skein was in the bath for 15 minutes.

Merino singles & a silk sample pre mordanted with alum
Merino single dyed with bracken + iron after bath
L-R: Alkaline modifier after bath (PH 9), Acid modifier after bath (PH 4)

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