Saturday, November 7, 2015

Lovin' the Pokeberries

Right now, Pokeberries are ripening all over the Bluegrass. I love the deep purple color in the fall landscape. Below are two projects you can attempt with Pokeberries.

Pokeberry Ink and Dye
*Just a reminder: Pokeberry leaves, berries and roots are highly toxic. DO NOT let children experiment with these recipes. Always wear gloves and protective clothing when working with Pokeberries.*

Pokeberry Ink:
Version #1: Pick ripe pokeberries and crush them in a bowl using a potato masher. Pick out the skins before straining the juice. Careful of the juice stains. Thicken them with gum arabic (available in health food stores) if they seem too thin.

Version #2: This is more of a recipe and is the one I have used.
• ½ cup Ripe Pokeberries
• ½ Tsp. Vinegar
• ½ Tsp. Salt
Fill a strainer with the berries and hold it over a bowl. Using a wooden spoon, crush the berries against the strainer so that the berry juice strains into the bowl. Keep adding berries until most of their juice has been strained out and only pulp remains. Add the salt and vinegar to the berry juice. The vinegar helps the ink retain its color and the salt keeps it from getting too moldy. If the berry ink is too thick, add a tablespoon of water. Store in a baby food jar. Only make a small amount of berry ink at a time and, when not in use, keep it tightly covered.
(I've also seen recipes that used ammonia as the fixative, but I've never tried this.)

To prepare Pokeberry dye for wool:
• 2 to 3 gallons of ripe pokeberries
• ½ gallon of white vinegar
• Enough water to cover berries
Boil the pokeberries, vinegar and water gently for 30 minutes.
Strain the berries through a fine sieve or cheesecloth. To dye wool, add to the dye extract the vinegar water in which the wool was mordanted (fixes the color) and enough clear water to make a 4 gallon dye bath.
Put one pound of handspun wet wool into a lukewarm pokeberry dye bath immediately after mordanting; let soak for half an hour or more until the desired color of lavender to red is reached. Keep the wool pressed under the water.
Press the water from the dyed wool and hang to dry without rinsing to further set the color.
After a few days rinse the wool and dry again.

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