Natural Dyeing with Oak Leaves

Kathryn Davey

March 14, 2023

Dye sources
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

Oak is the first of the dye sources detailed in The Colourway, as a dye source the leaves are rich in tannin and can provide a surprising range of natural hues.

In ancient Ireland, the Oak held special meaning to the Celts. Considered the King of the forest, it was associated with strength, nobility, inspiration & knowledge. The Oak itself has a lineage dating back roughly 85 million years. Historically, the oak was essential to the Irish way of life, providing shelter, fuel, building materials, food & habitats for wildlife.

With over 500 hundred species of Oak, they are known for their longevity & can live for 300-400 hundred years. With deciduous & evergreen varieties they are characterised by their wavey leaf pattern & distinguishable acorn seed.

As a dye plant, the leaves, bark, acorns, twigs & oak galls can all be used to create colour. These parts contain tannin which acts as a natural mordant ensuring beautiful long-lasting colours on plant fibres. The oak galls contain the highest concentration of tannin & these are commonly used to mordant plant fibres such as linen, cotton or hemp. They have also been used throughout history to create dark greys & ink when combined with iron.

To learn more about the colour possibilities of oak & a variety of seasonal dye plants, sign up to our monthly membership The Colourway & start learning today.

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