We planted an espalier apple tree 2 years ago when we moved to our new property. This year we had our first successful apple crop.
Every fruit tree needs occasional pruning. When you prune the small branches – do not throw them away. Both the leaves and the twigs and branches can be used for natural dyeing.
I separated the leaves from the branches and put them into buckets to store them for later use.
I filled a dyepot with some of the apple leaves (the rest of the leaves will be used later for another dye session.)
I added water and put the dyepot onto boil. I let it simmer for a few hours and then turned off the heat and let the dye solution sit overnight. I find that when working with plant dyes, it is better to leave them for several hours/overnight to allow more of the dye to soak out of the plant and into the water.
Apple leaves can be dyed without mordant as there are some natural tannins in the leaves.
I tested this by mordanting one skein in an alum mordant and leaving one wool skein unmordanted.
The following day, I reheated the apple leaf dye, leaving the leaves in the dyepot. I added the 2 skeins of wool into the dyepot and let them simmer for a few hours, stirring the pot from time to time.
I then turned off the heat and left the wool yarn to soak in the dye stock overnight. Again, I find that I get much stronger colours with natural dyes if I leave them in the dye solution overnight. Natural dyeing is a slow process, not to be rushed.
Both the mordanted and unmordanted yarns gave a lovely golden shade of yellow. I found that the alum mordanted yarn was slightly brighter in shade. I am pleased that I still have lots of apple leaves for another dye project and that the apple tree bark awaits for another dye day.
Natural Plant Dye Books
The Art and Science of Natural Dyes: Principles, Experiments, and Results
Wild Color, Revised and Updated Edition: The Complete Guide to Making and Using Natural Dyes
True Colors: World Masters of Natural Dyes and Pigments
Eco Colour: Botanical Dyes for Beautiful Textiles
A Weaver’s Garden: Growing Plants for Natural Dyes and Fibers