Sunday, April 3, 2011

Picking Apple Bark

As some of you know we spend about 6 months per year in India. Over the years we have traveled all over this beautiful country, but decided to make our base in the Kullu Valley in Himachal Pradesh. This is apple country, where a woman's wealth is measured not by suitcases of rupies under the bed, but the number of apple trees in her orchard. Our studio is nestled in an apple orchard.
In the foreground, under the apple trees, are our experimental natural dye plots.

One of the first things we did after arrival was to pick some old apple bark for our dyeing experiments. Of course we only used only old discarded bark. There is an abundance of apple bark here after the trimming season.

Below you find the results of our apple bark as a dye on wool experiments, in combination with different mordants and mordant concentrations. In general, in this case, the mordant ratios had little effect on the color. My favorite color was the pale yellow, on alum in a cold bath...The experiment was a bit disappointing since all the colors were very delicate and in the future if I ever work with this bark I will need to raise the bark to fiber ratio considerably....

Btw, can barks be used as mordants?

Apple bark on unmordanted wool in a cold bath:

Apple bark on alum in a cold bath: Al 5%; 2. Al 5% + CoT 5%; 3. Al 10%; 4. Al 10% + CoT 10%; 5. Al 25%; 6. Al 25% + CoT 25%; 7. Al 50%; 8. Al 50% + CoT 15%; 9. Al 15% + CoT 5%.
Again the fiber quality was outstanding in all of these samples, with hardly any difference in the mordant concentrations.

Apple bark on copper in a cold bath: 1. Cu 1%; 2. Cu 2%;
As in most cold baths, fiber quality is excellent. 

Now we pass to the hot baths.

The next two pictures are a part of small sub-experiment that I ran on two 25% alum mordanted yarns, the first one used 1 month dry-aged yarn and the second a used a sample of 1 month wet-aged yarn. I will return to this in future posts as well. The shades are a bit different, but please draw your own conclusions and compare it to the unaged alum 25% below:
From what I have noticed the fiber quality of the dry aging method is superior to the wet approach, but I still need to confirm this.

Apple bark on alum in a hot bath: 1. Al 5%; 2. Al 5% + CoT 5%; 3. Al 10%; 4. Al 10% + CoT 10%; 5. Al 25%; 6. Al 25% + CoT 25%; 7. Al 50%; 8. Al 50% + CoT 15%; 9. Al 15% + CoT 5%.
Again fiber quality excellent throughout.

Apple bark on copper in a hot bath: 1. Cu 1%; 2. Cu 1%  + 2% Citric Acid; 3. Cu 2%; 4. Cu 2%  + 4% Citric Acid; 5. Cu 4%; 6. Cu 4%  + 8% Citric Acid; 7. Cu 8%; 8. Cu 8%  + 10% Citric Acid.
The problem with copper again is that over 2% it shows considerable effects on the fibers and CoT might be contributing to the damage.  At this point i would like to underline the superiority of the cold bath method with copper as a mordant. When one compares the cold and hot fibers it is hard to imagine that they came from the same batch of premordanted yarn.

Apple bark on iron in a hot bath: 1. 1% Fe; 2. 1% Fe + 2% CoT + 1% Glauber’ Salt; 3. 2% Fe + 4% CoT + 2% Glauber’ Salt; 4. 2% Fe; 5. 4% Fe; 6. 4% Fe + 6% CoT + 4% Glauber’ Salt.
I have a feeling that I will be repeating the same story over and over again.....please bear with me. The problems here are the same that I found with madder and iron. The pure iron fibers are good in all concentrations, and there are differences in color, but the cot and gsalt addition is damaging the fibers and really dulling the colors.....

Apple bark on tin in a hot bath: 1. 2% Sn; 2. 2% Sn + 2% CoT; 3. 2% Sn + 2% Oxalic Acid; 4. 4% Sn; 5. 4% Sn + 4% CoT; 6. 4% Sn + 4% Oxalic Acid; 7. 8% Sn; 8. 8% Sn + 8% CoT; 9. 8% Sn + 8% Oxalic Acid
Same old tin story, some of the colors are brilliant, but the fibers are all damaged.

On some of the dyes we ran additional experiments with 20 micron merino and 50/50 merino/angora blend that we use on our knitted products and scarfs....

Apple bark on merino in a hot bath: 1. Al 15% + CoT 5%; 2. 4% Sn + 4% Oxalic Acid; 3. 2% Fe + 4% CoT + 2% Glauber’ Salt; 4.  Cu 4%  + 8% Citric Acid. 
In the case of merino we had extensive felting with all the mordants. It happened during the mordanting process and we will have to adjust the time and/or the method in the future. Merino is the hardest fiber for us to work with. All of the top quality merino comes from Australia and is heavily processed in India before it reaches our mill. It is the only fiber that we use that we do not have control of during its processing, and unfortunately this shows in the results.

Apple bark on angora/merino blend in a hot bath: 1. Al 15% + CoT 5%; 2. Cu 4%  + 8% Citric Acid; 3. 2% Fe + 4% CoT + 2% Glauber’ Salt; 4. 4% Sn + 4% Oxalic Acid.
Angora has been a pleasant surprise. I was a bit worried about this delicate fiber and yet it came out much better than merino. We use our own unprocessed angora in this blend and it makes a huge difference, making up for the shortcomings of merino. A bit of felting with copper and slight rougness on tin. But all in all this is my best tin sample so far. I am very surprised...


  1. You asked if barks could be used as mordants. They contain varying amounts of tannin and because of this are considered to be substantive dyes, in other words, mordant and dye in the same pot. In my experience, barks produce muted shades of beige and tan to browns. Using mordants with them extends the color range a bit. Jenny Dean shows apple bark producing a coral color on unmordanted wool after "...soaking in water a week or more, before being gently simmered to make the dye bath. Brighter colors," she says, "often result if you strip off the outer bark and use only the inner bark for the dye bath." Might be fun to try this method.

  2. hello kris,
    nice to hear from you..
    i am not really happy with the apple bark samples. thanks for your recommendations, i think that soaking will help and will do it on next batch.
    i was also very conservative with the ratios of dye and next time will at least double it...
    i can see a potential in those pale shades.....