Dyeing with Acorns

Last year I missed acorn season completely. I think due to the hot summer, they came out earlier while I was busy concentrating on other plants. This year I’m early and they’re just starting to fall off the trees. I also have help finding them in the form of my 4 year who is an amazing acorn spotter.

Acorns coming through in July

Acorns grow in oak trees and are full of tannins so no mordant is needed. The bark, leaves as well as oak galls can be used for dyeing, but I have only even used acorns for the easy accessibility. I have recently saved a jar full of oak galls, but these are being saved for ink experiments.

I collected two litres of green and brown acorns, ones fallen on to the ground and simmered them for an hour for three days, leaving them to cool overnight each day. The dye liquid was a strong brown colour. I left the acorns in the pot during dyeing.
I used various unmordanted fibres; merino/nylon yarn, shetland roving as well a silk sample and a cotton fabric sample. The fibres were simmered for an hour at 80 degrees and left to cool.

Acorn dye bath

I modified half of my fibres with iron (1/4 teaspoon of iron and 10 minutes in the dye bath)

You can see a lot of shade variations with different fibres. Cotton had barely taken any colour on its own and with iron it turned a light grey. Silk takes colour beautifully as well as the nylon re-enforced sock yarn, which was no surprise. The roving comes from my friends sheep and was washed, but was still quite lanolin rich and the colours are much lighter.

Merino + nylon + iron modifier on the right
Shetland roving + iron modifier on the right
L-R: Silk + Iron, Silk, Cotton + Iron, Cotton

I love the colour acorns and iron give. It’s such a strong grey; almost black, which is an elusive colour in the natural dyeing world.


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