Dyeing with Alder Cones

I have an abundant supply of alder cones right on my door step and I've collected a couple of shoe boxes full of them so it was time to try out this dye!

I pre treated my fabric in soya milk, by soaking it in a bucket of diluted milk over night, spinning it out in the washing machine and leaving to air dry, then doing two more dips. I left the fabric to cure for a month before using it.

The reasoning behind the soya milk treatment is that the soya protein coats the cellulose fibres of the fabric which makes them more protein-like, therefore making the fabric more receptive to plant dyes. I did the soya milk treatment instead of mordanting in aluminium acetate, which I used to find to be a fairly quick and very reliable method, but I do not want to use metallic salt mordants anymore due to their potential toxicity. Plus it's much more exciting experimenting with new methods! (I first learnt about soya milk mordanting from India Flint in her book, 'Eco Colour'.)

The alder cones were soaked over night in water, then heated in an aluminium pan for a couple of hours to extract the dye and the liquid was finally strained through a muslin cloth.

The fabric was soaked in the dye bath for about 24 hours, with a couple of heatings during that period.

The scarf below was modified with iron to deepen some areas of the pattern.

The final colour from the alder cones is a delicious, warm caramel, deepening to a chocolate brown when modified in iron. I will continue collecting alder cones to experiment further!