Recently, while mowing, the seat of my pants felt wet. When I finally got off the riding mower to check, I discovered some pokeberries had loosened themselves from their stems, rolled down my back, and got squished under my backside. I treated my shorts and rinsed my underwear, but not before noticing what a lovely color the berry juice produces.
Even though pokeberry dye is known to be fugitive (fades fast, washes out), I decided to give it a try anyway. I relied on Harvesting Color, by Rebecca Burgess, which includes instructions for dyeing with pokeberries so that the color lasts. Basically you mordant the fiber in a vinegar bath, but also add vinegar to the dye bath, and hope for the best. The author uses wool, but since I had so few berries, I chose to dye a silk scarf.
The dye bath looked almost black, but the initial dunking of the scarf didn't look too promising. Keeping temps between 160 and 180 degrees, I mordanted the scarf for an hour, cooked the berries for an hour, and simmered the scarf in the dye bath for TWO hours. I then left the scarf in the dye bath overnight AND let the scarf dry for two hours before rinsing, yet the color seems rather pallid.
What would you call this color? Peach? Apricot? Pale white lady? My gardening tan is darker but the scarf just about matches my untanned belly skin. I think I'll wear it around and if someone comments on it and indicates they really like the color, it may become theirs.
I'm not giving up on pokeberries, though. Next time I will use wool for the fiber and gather many, many more berries, to see if that makes a difference. The recommended ratio of berries to fiber is 25:1, and while technically that is what I had, I think one cannot err by increasing the berry amount.