Monday, June 22, 2015

Corylus maxima (or Purple-leafed Filbert)

Dyeing result from Corylus maxima leaves

The Corylus maxima, or Purple-leafed Filbert, is a species of the deciduous hazel tree.  Native to southeaster Europe and southwestern Asia, the Corylus is grown throughout the world for it's filberts, as well as for ornamental purposes.  The filbert nut of this tree is edible and is most often found in cans of mixed nuts.  The tree itself grows to about 25 feet in height and is quickly recognized by its deep eggplant-colored leaves.

Corylus maxima leaves

This tree grows across the street in my neighbor's yard.  For years I have admired its purple leaves and wondered what color they might yield in a dye bath.  When my neighbor pruned the tree this spring, I quickly offered to help him by carrying off the clippings in exchange for the leaves.

Corylus maxima tree;  Grays Harbor County, WA, USA

The leaves were stripped from the branches and filled my large stainless steel pot.  I covered them with water, brought it to a simmer and let simmer for about an hour, then turned off the heat and let it sit overnight.

The next morning I strained the leaves from the liquid, took 3 cups of the dye liquid which was a dark purple-brown color, and added 3 cups of water, 3 Tbs. of white vinegar, and 2 tsps. of alum for mordant. The pH of the liquid was 3- 4. 

I decided to try a variety of fibers in the dye bath, knowing that different fibers can respond differently to the dye.  Some months before I had mordanted a yard of cotton fabric with milk and set it aside for dyeing.  This fabric, along with a silk scarf, would each be wetted, crunched up, and tied with string before going into the dye pot, to give the finished color on these fabrics a mottled look.  Some silk thread wrapped around a wooden spoon handle (to have sewing thread to match the fabric), two small handfuls of taupe-colored Blue-faced Leicester wool, and a skein of recycled lambswool yarn joined the fabric in the dye pot.  They simmered together for about 45 minutes and were then left to cool in the pot.

Corylus maxima:  fibers in the dye pot
After the fibers cooled, I rinsed them and hung to dry.  I love the dusky lavender color on the cotton and silk. The BFL wool fiber has pink and brown tones, while the wool yarn turned a luscious shade of olive-green. Most of the purple dye baths I have had, yield shades of green on wool fibers. The surprise was that the BFL wool fiber did not turn green, too. This is what I love about natural dyeing. Not only are the colors so earthen in nature, but they can also be surprising.

Corylus maxima leaves on cotton and silk
Corylus maxima leaves on silk scarf
Corylus maxima leaves: cotton fabric, silk scarf, silk thread,
lambswool yarn, BFL wool fiber (clump of purple string was cotton
string that tied fabric.

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