Natural Dye From Popple Catkins

Quaking aspen is called “popple” in my area. You don’t often read about aspen as a natural dye material. But it’s in my own yard and it’s abundant. That’s enough reason for me to test it.

Natural dye experiment with popple by Donna Kallner.

The popple catkins wrapped in silk in the baggie on the left released pink as soon as the vinegar hit them. That sample should be ready to remove from the baggie next week. We’ll see how the color changes when it oxidizes.

While not as bright as the baggie bundle, the “ashes of roses” color on the right is really more my style. That came when I substituted (low) heat for time: I added catkins to plain (hard) water in an aluminum pan, added the silk, and slowly brought it up to a not-quite simmer (about 150-160 degrees F). Again, we’ll see how the color changes over time.Popple catkins used for natural dye by Donna Kallner.

Last year, spring came early and the popple catkins were out the third week of March. This year, spring is a bit late and they’re out the first week of May.

Willow catkins for cordial.

The most fragrant of my willow catkins are just now coming out, too. We have another experiment going with those. Each summer, Bill gathers petals from the Thérèse Bugnet rose in our yard. He soaks the petals in rum to extract the flavor, then mixes the extraction with simple syrup to make a cordial we enjoy sipping in the winter. We’re hoping to capture the fragrance of early spring with our willow “Catkin Cordial”.

I’m ignoring this morning’s freezing rain. With catkins and crocuses in bloom here, it’s officially spring. What’s blooming in your yard?

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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