This last year, I nurtured a pretty little weed in my backyard. It grew and thrived and grew and grew until it pretty much blocked the door to the backyard. I protected it from all attempts to cut it down because it was a pokeweed. A huge, 5 foot tall majestic pokeweed. And pokeweed produces pokeweed berries, which are big, beautiful purple berries that dye the skin bright fuchsia. I was going to gather these and try my hand at dyeing yarn.
In the great big universal intellect called the internet, I could find nothing on how to prepare them, so I began a trek to experiment and find the perfect recipe.
A friend raises alpaca and I bought several skeins of her lightest wool, (from Amelia who is the cuddliest alpaca you will ever meet). The yarn was an off-white. I was going to see if I could change that.
Let’s talk mordants. Most fabric and yarn do not readily take a dye. They must be treated first with something that will bind the dye to the material. That binding agent is called a mordant. The most common ones are salt, vinegar, alum, and iron.
The closest recipe I could find was one using blackberries. For that, they used a salt mordant, so there I began.