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Natural blackberry beads

by Timber Press on February 1, 2017

in Craft, Design

Wool fleece soaks in a cold deep purple blackberry dye bath. All images by Tristan Davison.

Knowing your neighborhood can lead to beautiful dye colors! Blackberries can be foraged in both wild and urban areas. Blackberry leaves and stems produce shades of yellow to gray-greens to dark teal-gray, while the berries offer deep purples and pinks. Transform your textiles into treasures—wood beads, wool yarn, a silk dress, or preowned sweaters—starting with this simple DIY project.

Blackberry-Dyed Beads

It is exciting to consider how many kinds of material beyond textiles can be dyed with botanical color. Other beads that work for naturally dyeing are those made of bone or other natural fibers like wool felt or silk. Blackberries make a dye that is shades of deep purple and maroon on light-colored wood. Gather enough blackberries to make a dye bath that will cover your beads. For 1 ounce (28 g) of blackberries, use 4 fluid ounces (118 ml) water.

  1. Crush the blackberries with a mortar and pestle.
  2. Put the crushed berries in a bowl, add the water, and stir. The dye bath will be thick.
  3. Submerge the beads in the dye bath and soak until they reach the desired color.
  4. Wash the beads gently, rinse thoroughly, and set out to dry.

Blackberry dye bath in a glass container.

Hooked on the rich colors of natural dyes? Try one of these advanced projects from The Handbook of Natural Plant Dyes: Personalize Your Craft with Organic Colors from Acorns, Blackberries, Coffee, and Other Everyday Ingredients:

Yarn died with foraged berries.

A little black(berry) silk dress.

Blackberry leaf and stem dye.

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duerr_sSasha Duerr is an artist and designer who works with organic dyes and fibers. In 2007, Sasha founded Permacouture Institute to encourage sustainable design and education from the ground up in fashion and textiles. Sasha’s textile art and design has been shown in galleries and museums in the U.S. and abroad. Her work has been featured in such publications as San Francisco, Selvedge, Fast Company, and Eco Salon. Her bioregional knitwear collection with Casey Larkin is Adie + George. She teaches at the California College of the Arts, where she earned an MFA in textiles.

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“For anyone interested in exploring natural dyes, The Handbook of Natural Plant Dyes is a must-have.” —Curbly.com

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