day 9: landscape – found poetry and some chokecherry dye

I’m trying my hand at “newspaper popout” inspired by Austin Kleon. In my case, tourist brochure popout. It was almost too easy. We passed through Nakusp, BC on the way to Silverton and New Denver this summer. We fell in love with Slocan valley in the Kootenays.

landscape poem

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Afternoon practice time

It was my son’s oboe teacher who suggested we check out the Valhalla Summer School of Music in New Denver and Silverton. It was absolutely fabulous. We camped with other families with young musicians attending the program. Some of them had been going for 10 years every summer and I understand why. My kids want to do it again.

At the Friday market in New Denver, I met textile artist, Morgen Bardati, and bought a silk scarf that had been dyed with natural dyes and eco-printed with plants including onion skins and tickseed and perhaps a few other things.

IMG_2489 IMG_2490I love it and it has inspired me to try some dyeing with chokecherries growing the the yard. You would think inky black purple juice might leave a decent stain behind. But no such luck. It’s only my first try, so although a little underwhelming, it’s got a subtle charm. My colourblind son just said the yarn just looked like a mop and why don’t I go regroovenate a mop. I’d say he was more than underwhelmed, but it’s nice to hear someone use the word regroovenate.

I made jelly first from the chokecherry juice. I used the crabapple-chokecherry jelly recipe as a guide and this approach from Julie. ( Here is her crabapple jelly recipe. ) I used up my last year’s unripe frozen apple in this jelly to provide pectin. Did you know that the seeds, leaves and bark contain hydrocyanic acid forming compounds? Don’t eat the seeds, especially raw. Cooking and drying will neutralize this chemical. My husband grew up eating them straight off the tree. Chokecherries have long been used in pemmican recipes and as a food and medicine by Indigenous people of the North American prairies. After the jelly making, there was pulp and seeds left over to make a dye bath. I added more water to the remains of the chokecherries and boiled it again.

With natural dyes, in most cases a mordant is needed. It’s a chemical that helps bind the colour to the fabric. I didn’t have any around, so I tried to dye some cotton pants without it. I strained out the seeds and pulp and wrapped them up with my pants and put them in a zip lock bag overnight. They barely left a visible stain on grey fabric. Funny how when you want to stain something, it’s not so simple. I think partly it could be that the fabric was already dyed grey and I have heard that it is harder to dye a fabric once it is already saturated with dye. It seems as though cotton is also harder to dye than animal fibres like wool and silk and it was not mordanted. It was worth a try. The next day I bought some alum to mordant my yarn and used the juice to dye the yarn. I think the colour looks prettier in the pictures than looking at the real thing. Without the contrast of the original yarn, it just looks like grey. It’s a first try, I want to do some more.

Seeds and pulp wrapped in grey cotton yoga pants
I rolled up the pants and stepped on the bag and left it overnight.
After a quick wash, bottom portion is stained, the top is the original colour
A natural grey wool yarn, washed and mordanted with alum, and soaked in hot juice in a hot water bath in a ziplock bag for 1 hour and then cooled overnight – before rinsing.
Schubert chokecherry tree with a skein of yarn dyed with chokecherry juice
Dyed yarn and original yarn
June Written by:


  1. Avatar
    September 11, 2015

    June, what yarn is that? I really like the spin

    • June
      September 11, 2015

      My best guess is Red Neck Goat Ranch.(I saw they are on Facebook.) Maybe I bought it at the Calgary Farmers market many years ago. Or it could be something else??

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