Don’t Eat The Rhubarb

When a friend popped into the studio this week, his first comment was, “Smells good in here!” Our rhubarb is up enough to sacrifice a few leaves for dyeing some silk. Since rhubarb leaves are considered toxic, I should maybe make a skull and crossbones to clip on the dye pot. It did smell tasty.

After simmering the leaves, though, the mushy mess doesn’t look very appetizing. But the oxalic acid in rhubarb leaves produces a nice mordant and colors white silk a lovely light golden yellow.¬†

After a bath below the simmer level, the silk got wrapped around dried willow bark I had soaked to make it pliable. My tight little bundles went back into the pot.

After the bundles simmered and cooled down, the bark left a lovely pattern on the silk.

¬†Here’s a scarf I dyed the same way.

The willow bark got re-wrapped into other silk from the rhubarb bath, but those bundles didn’t go back in the pot. I’ll unwrap them today or tomorrow.

With all the hand stitching I’ve been doing, I need something to keep me from sitting in one spot long enough for my joints to rust. Jumping up and down to check the dyepot is a pleasant diversion. But it’s making me really hungry.

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Donna Kallner

fiber artist, teacher and explorer, inspired by ancient fiber techniques and all the ways contemporary fiber artists give old ideas a new spin

4 thoughts on “Don’t Eat The Rhubarb”

  1. Donna,
    Mary Sue and I are getting ready for our second class with Shelly Ryan (WPTV) dying silk scarves with natural dyes. I’ll be trying your rhubarb “recipe” some day soon. After seeing Julie’s mushroom sweater though at Mid-West, our colors seem so tame. I was amazed and awed at her sweater.
    Gail Mandli

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