Pink with birch?

I’ve heard the rumours. Perhaps something to do with bark. But you know, most people seem to get just yellow or, with the bark, mucky fawn.

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Then accidents happen which lead to more projects.

I’d made a birch dye for trying with my papers and added some soda ash to bring out all the colour. Then had to let it sit for two days because you know, stuff. Now, making your dye bath slightly alkaline doesn’t matter as the day after when it’s cooled, it will be back to 7. Not if you add 5x too much however: dark brown.

And: pink paper!

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I made another, no soda, just let it steep over night as I’ve done so many times before, in fact I’ve solar dyed with birch and it remained sunny. Not today. A fainter red-brown, but definitely similar to the last.

So my conclusion is, and unfortunately I’m probably too tired to make this experiment on a hank of wool, so I’m hoping somebody else will and report back: It could be the season. Early autumn just before the green goes, something happens in the leaves to change the chemistry and whatnot. And perhaps that’s how you get pink with birch. There’s a lot of old stories of dye with certain plants and nobody can make it work because there’s no recipe. Could be a case of mistranslation, wrong plant name, and of course, lies. (Like those who claim today they can make colourfast dye from beetroot.)

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I only just managed to get some yellow for my already soaked pulp by throwing a handful in of anything I could find in the garden, the one surviving goldenrod, a rhubarb leaf, tansy leaves and french marigold from the freezer that turned out to have not kept so well in there. So now I know there’s a time element to freezing your flowers – I’ll be getting to those orange cosmos asap! I never get enough plants to harvest a full kettle of heads on one day, this year it was slugs from hell.

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10 thoughts on “Pink with birch?

  1. cosmos is one of those flowers that freeze well if you can’t collect enough for the dye pot in one day but my husband does complain if I fill the freezer with flowers instead of food ; )
    so last year I tried drying flowers and it worked beautifully.

    1. Some flowers go to seed when picked and dried, so that’s why I prefer the freezer method. But apparently they are not forever in there either, I had those particular bags which didn’t work for at least two years, ahem…

    1. I’m not really interested in dusty pink, which is another reason I just throw the theory out here rather than muster my remaining 5% battery power to prove it. 😉 The question surfaces once in a while on the DK boards “I heard you can get pink with birch”, but nobody ever got it.

      What do you mean by “tips” exactly?

      1. Sorry, that wasn’t clear, was it? 🙂 All the branch tips were pruned, and the resulting 12-14 inches of branch got clipped in half and thrown in a pot to soak, with a previously alum mordanted silk. I did also get a pale pink once with birch bark extracted in alcohol, on silk thread, but it never worked again!

    1. Well, it remains to be tested on wool, but interesting nevertheless. I’ve dyed yellow with August leaves from the same trees, so what happens chemically in the span of a month I wonder? I can’t believe I’m even asking that question, I always hated chemistry…

  2. I would love to try this on wool, but my time schedule is too tight for anything not absolutely necessary for either work or family life. But I would be very intrested to know the resutls if anyone tried!

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