Natural Dyes: Staghorn Sumac

I've got another new project in the works.  One morning over coffee, a bag full of newly plant dyed yarn, and log cabin squares my friend said, "Wouldn't it be wonderful to make a blanket for your new house using yarn you've dyed with plants found around your homestead?"  She's a genius, my friend.  So that's what I'm going to do.  Another way to connect myself to the earth, flow with the seasons and mark each new phase of our homesteading life.  It feels so right.

I don't have any specifics on patterns yet.  Whether I'll make up my own or use the log cabin squares again, I think we'll just wait and see what the yarn wants to become.

For the first plant, I'm using what I have on hand.  A box of Staghorn Sumac that Mike picked for me along the river bank last fall; before the tops turned brown and the air turned cold.  I'm amazed how well they held their color.  I wish the yarn would turn this dreamy shade of pink, but I'm no fool.  It will be some shade of warm brown.  Beautiful still in all it's earthy goodness.

Plant Name:  Staghorn Sumac

Location:  Steep sloping river bank behind our land.  Full sun.

Harvest Date:  Mid fall


:: Not surprising, it smells like tea when cooking. (It is an edible plant.  The tops can be made into a refreshing pink lemonade type drink.)

:: Dye pot had mineral build up on bottom from boiling hot bath water.  I didn't bother to clean it off and may have affected color.

:: Lightly boiled plant material for 2 hours

:: Let plant material sit overnight

:: Strained out organic matter

:: Soaked yarn (superwash merino worsted) overnight in alum solution.

:: Added yarn to dye pot and simmered for 2 hours

:: Turned off heat and let soak overnight

::  Hand washed with home made soap

::  Rolled out excess water in towel and left to air dry

::  Next day, I divided the skein into two smaller skeins and soaked one in an iron after bath.

::  Washed and dryed as above.

This is going to be so exciting!  I'll post pictures tomorrow of the results.


  1. Great idea!! We have a ton of staghorns around here, never thought to try dying with them. Can't wait to see the results.

  2. Oh that is a great idea. What better to hold the memories of days and seasons close to you than on a blanket dyed from home grown {and gathered} dyestuff and made up with your own hands? Perfect! I can't wait to follow your progress throughout the coming seasons!

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