We went out for a hike near the Squamish estuary a couple days ago, and all along the train track were wild Sheep Sorrel (Rumex acetosella), a common herb/weed. Small maroon flowers bloom in the summertime from their long, ridged stems. However, the characteristic feature of this herb (identifier) are it’s arrowhead shaped leaves with two pointed horns at the base. The leaves weren’t large enough to forage for salad and it’s too early in the summer to harvest their roots for Essiac tea. So, I brought home a bunch to dye with! 🙂 I have read that these give a dark black-green color on some blogs, but I was excited to try it myself.
Sheep Sorrel is high in oxalic acid (a plant tannin), therefore there is no need to add an alum mordant or treat your fibers with tannic acid first. We gathered the whole plant and used them fresh. They were boiled and simmered for 1-2 hours. I was surprised to see the bright red-orange dye bath it yielded. Make sure to strain this dye before use as the small flower heads are really hard to get off the fabric.
I initially threw in a small sample of wool, cotton and silk to see what color I would get. To my surprise, the cotton picked up no dye at all! The wool took on a light yellow hue and the silk a barely there yellow. So I decided to only experiment with wool for the color payoff. I used 100% pure virgin wool yarn and tested for various mordants: No mordant, Alum, Copper & Iron as well as varying pH levels: neutral, acidic (with Vinegar) and basic (with baking soda). Here are the results I got for the color range for field Sheep Sorrel:
I was really impressed with the green and ‘almost’ black I achieved. Considering that Sheep Sorrel is a very prolific weed in N. America, this seems like a very viable and sustainable option to get green and black. I dyed some embroidery threads, wool roving for felting as well as wool felt sheets to add to my collection!
~in so much gratitude for these pigment molecules carefully nurtured by the Sun in these ‘weedy’ Sheep Sorrel!~