Winter dyeplants; Spruce cones

I am slightly cheating with my local winter dyeplant series as I must admit there aren’t many spruce trees near where I live in London. Nevertheless they do exist in the UK and my dye experiments were done with cones I brought back from Finland, where they definitely are a local plant. We have a bunch of trees in our garden and the lack of snow this winter made the cones easy to find. Spruce cones are something I didn’t think about dyeing with until I came across experiments wih these on social media.

Dyeing with any kind of cones, you come across a lot of tree sap. I dyed with pine cones few years ago and found it wasn’t worth the effort. After weeks of soaking and a decent simmer period, the colours were light brown and the yarn sticky from sap.

I didn’t mordant my fibres nor did I soak the cones. Tree cones are generally full of tannins so mordanting is not required. The cones were frozen when I collected them so I left them to defrost in water and simmered the bath for an hour. I added my fibres the next day; linen, two different silks, wool/cashmere, cotton and two small skeins of superwash BFL.

I simmered the fibres for an hour and left them to cool in the bath.

Wool/cashmere & Superwash BFL dyed with spruce cones
Silk dupion and silk organza dyed with spruce cones
L- R: Linen, cotton, silk dupion and silk organza dyed with spruce cones

The colours on different fibres were all strong rosy pinks, apart from the two wool skeins that dyed a little browner. The fabrics were sap free and washed beautifully, yarn a little sticky and my dye pot took a battering and needed a good soak and scrub to clean the sap. I wonder what causes the pink colour in these cones. I dye a lot with alder cones for the lovely caramel brown shades and as I mentioned pine cones gave me shades of beige. I’ve always associated tree cones with these kind of colours. Spruce cone dye reminds me more of avocado dye, which is also a strong rosy pink.

The PH stayed at 7 during the dyeing, which is the ‘normal’ range for my tap water.

I also couldn’t find any information on dyeing with spruce cones in any of my dye books, but would love to find out more. These colours need to be tested for light fastness so they’re off to the windowsill for a few months.


8 thoughts on “Winter dyeplants; Spruce cones

  1. This is brilliant I’m going to have a go! One of my dogs loves collecting fir cones when we are out walking😜.
    Thanks for sharing.


  2. What if you simmered the cones and then ran the dye water through a sacrificial fabric to capture the sap? The dye water could then be reutilized sap free (fingers crossed!)!


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