Unfarmed could easily keep busy with edibles. We could focus an entire series on herbal medicinals. And then there's natural dyes - another seemingly un-ending road we could head down, exploring color and textiles. We're into all of it!!! Unfarmed is about wild things, foraging, wild crafting, scavenging, gleaning and the loads of different uses for these things. Things we've forgotten, things we should know. And this is one to know because in it's own way, seeing what plum leaves can do, makes me look at the world differently. Deepa is a botanical educator and natural dyer in Berkeley, Ca, where she harvests deep purple spring plum leaves from Prunus spp. to make a gorgeous blurple dye. Visit her site to see what she's up to and take a class.
Use principles of pruning to gather your leaves from those in abundant publicly accessible spaces. Or gather wind-fallen leaves. Make the dye in a well ventilated area, preferably outdoors and always designate and label separate pots for dyeing.
Spring Plum Leaf Dye Recipe
Dye Prep for best results
Use all natural fibers. Wash/soak your fabric in a pH neutral soap or scour with soda ash for more even results. You can then mordant the fabric using alum in 10% weight of fiber. To do this, simmer cloth with alum for 1 hour. Rinse, hang dry, then proceed with dye process below.
You will need twice your weight of fabric in leaves. So if your fabric weighs 6 oz, you will need 12 oz. of leaves.
1 - 3 tsp. Mordant dissolved in water. Either Alum (Aluminum potassium sulfate) OR Iron (Ferrous sulfate). Alum brightens the color, yielding a more violet hue. Iron darkens the color to a slate blue.
Gather the purple leaves.
Bring a large pot of water up to a steamy simmer. Add plum leaves and continue to simmer for :45 mins - 1 hour. Over time, the water changes color and the leaves lose their purple pigment, turning green.
Add mordant to dye pot, starting with 1 tsp. and slowly increasing until you reach your desired color.
Submerge your pre-soaked and/or pre-mordanted fabric into the dye bath. The fabric should be fully submerged.
Allow the cloth to soak for about 1 hour.
Rinse and hang dry, preferably in the shade.