Since we moved to the farm, one of our favorite pastimes has been seeing the things happen without any help from us. Sure, a garden is fun, but what’s even more fun is a Christmas tree that just grew on its own, or a walnut crop that just fell out of the tree. Pokeweed dye is like that. Two Fridays ago, I went out and picked a couple gallons of berries that just happened on their own, and by Saturday we had this beautiful red yarn drying in the kitchen.
I was not particularly precise with measurements, though I did take care not to scald any of these bright colors into browns by boiling. An hour of vinegar mordant, followed by twelve hours in the dye bath made for a beautiful first batch. We then let the dye ferment for a week, and made a second batch without any mordant. The colors, for now, are indistinguishable to me.
One of the troubles people have with poke dyes is light and color fastness. Rebecca Burgess came to the rescue with a recipe in her phenomenal book, Harvesting Color. The vinegar mordant technique she learned from Carol Leigh seems to have really done the trick, though it’s only a week so far. When my friend Laura knitted it into this swatch, she said none came off on her fingers, and only a bit came out in the first wash (none in subsequent washes).