Although the weather has been milder than usually in January, we are in the middle of winter. Growing up in Finland that usually meant mandatory skiing in schools and freezing temperatures. Even Finland is lacking in snow this year and London has been depressingly warm. A lot of my dyer friends pack up their dye pots for winter, but I like to forage all year round. It is also a good time to give some love to plants I tend to ignore when the fresh blooms of spring and summer start popping up. I am trying to challenge myself to do some weekly experiments on otherwise neclegted plants which are readily available at this time of year.
One of my favourite winter plants to dye with is alder cones. I collect them when they start turning brown and save to use all around the year. Alder trees grow often near water and there are tons near the riversides in London, making them easy to forage.
The tannins in alder cones make them an easy dye plant as no mordant is required. For this experiment I had 50 grams of alder cones and small samples of various fibres as well as a 20 gram skein of wool.
I extracted the colour over few days; simmering the cones an hour at a time and then straining cones out of the dye liquid. Fibres are added in and simmered for an hour and then left to cool. The colours range from warm to cool browns depending on the fibre.