November 28, 2009
With acorns raining on the rooftops–I felt inspired to see how I could put this abundant resource to use in the dye process. Tan oak bark and shavings have long been known for their role in tanning hides, they were harvested almost to the point of complete decimation in our area. My intention was to use the renewable part of the tree–the acorn, and make the most of the acorn meat in the process. Tannin is a non-metallic mordant- and the only mordant that I have found locally available. It can also be used as a dye–creating shades of light brown when used on its own.
After pounding the acorns with a rock and peeling them, I added them to a food processor to blend them into smaller chunks. The chunks were placed in a cloth bag. I let the faucet water drain through them. I squeezed the bag occasionally to see thick brown water leaching from the acorn meal. The tannic acid comes out of the acorn in the form of a thick starchy like substance. At one point after several hours of leaching, the acorns were done- and the water ran clear. I dehydrated the meal- and saved that for a future batch of acorn cookies.
I had also experimented some time ago with making a mordant from rusty objects– by soaking them in water and vinegar. Tannins and iron produce lovely shades of gray.
After creating the tannin and rust waters, I put a strip of hemp/cotton fabric into the tannins for a day. I then rolled up the wet tannin mordanted fabric with several maple leaves and put it into the rust water, after a day and a half I unravelled it.
The finished fabric is gray/blue color, and the maple leaf prints turned a very light green. The joy of making a mordant out of a wild food by-product was such a wonderful revelation. I will continue with acorn tannin experiments to see the effects on wool with native plant dye colors. I’ll keep you posted!