Natural Dyeing With Hawthorn

Kathryn Davey

November 1, 2023

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natural dyeing
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I’m a author, self-taught designer & natural dyer sharing the beauty of natural dyes and plant based colour with anyone that's interested :) 

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Hi, I'm kathryn

The Hawthorn tree, ‘Crataegus monogyna‘, grows across North America, Europe, and Asia. Native to Ireland & steeped in folklore, Hawthorn is an incredible source of natural colour. Its beautiful white flowers, vibrant red berries, and thorny branches make it a captivating specimen throughout the Irish landscape. Beyond its beauty & history, this tree holds a stunning source of natural colour. Consider natural dyeing with hawthorn & see for yourself the vibrant range of colours it provides.

The Ancient World

In ancient Ireland, the hawthorn was the tree of the fairies & signified a gateway to other realms. Believed to bring luck to anyone who cut this tree down. The Greeks & Romans used it in their most important ceremonies for birth & marriage. While the Pagans viewed it as a symbol of fertility and placed it at the foot of newly married couples.

Medicinal Uses

Hawthorn berries have been used to make jellies, jams, liqueurs, and wines for centuries. Medicinally, it is believed to be the ultimate heart tonic, with a history of use for heart disease, high blood pressure & cholesterol. With a high concentration of flavonoids that support the circulatory system, it is used as an adaptogenic tonic to help with cardiovascular disease, anxiety & poor circulation. The leaves, flowers & berries can soothe the digestive system & relieve bloating.

Natural Dyeing With Hawthorn

As a natural dye, the hawthorn tree offers a range of colours, from warm yellows to deep terracotta reds. To make dye, you can work with flowers, leaves or branches. Carefully remove whichever part you decide to work with from the tree, add to a pot of water then simmer gently for 3-4 hours. Once the liquid has changed colour & you have a nice strong dye to work with, strain out the plant parts & add your scoured and mordanted fibres to the dye pot.

How to dye with hawthorn:

  1. Add your hawthorn to a pot & cover with water.
  2. Place on the stove & add gentle heat.
  3. Simmer for 3-4 hours.
  4. When the water changes colour & you have a strong dye to work with, strain out the hawthorn.
  5. Next, add your scoured & mordanted fibre and leave in the dye until you’re happy with the colour. If dyeing cotton, linen or plant fibre you can add your fibre to the pot. If dyeing animal fibre, allow the dye to cool completely before adding your fibre.
  6. Leave the fibre in the dye until you are happy with the colour.
  7. Remove your fibre from the dye, rinse with an eco-friendly detergent & hang to dry.

A Sustainable Source of Natural Colour

One of the main advantages of using hawthorn tree for natural dyeing is its availability. You can find hawthorn trees in many parts of the world, making it a sustainable source of natural colour. The use of hawthorn tree for dyeing not only creates beautiful colours but also promotes environmental consciousness. By using natural dyes, you can avoid the harmful chemicals present in synthetic dyes, reduce your ecological footprint and contribute to a cleaner and greener planet. The next time you come across this tree, consider gathering its leaves or branches and embark on a dyeing adventure that connects you with nature and brings unique colours to your fibres, fabrics or garments!

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