Natural Dyeing with Spruce

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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Natural dyeing with spruce cones

When it comes to natural dyeing with Spruce cones, the process couldn’t be simpler. For my February Colourway, I looked at colours from the cones of the Norway Spruce. The fastest growing of spruces, the Norway spruce, is a common tree in the forests of Ireland.

The bark is greenish or greyish brown, with mature trees showing scales & shedding. The leaves are dark green & needle-like. These needles are slightly curved & smooth, falling from the branches after 2-3 years. The cones are orangey-brown and narrow with rounded scales.

Natural dyeing with spruce cones

The wood of the mountain spruce is firm & durable making it a common choice for timber, furniture, instruments, paper-making, beer & essential oils. It was used by violin makers, who valued it for the resonance it provided. In shipbuilding, spruce woods provided reliable/long-lasting ship masts.

As a natural dye source, the branches, bark & cones can all be used to produce colour. As they are high in tannin, they make a rich dye that will bind to your fibres producing good results from a small number of cones. Spruce trees are a wonderful dye source & depending on the variety you use, colours can range from tans to pinks, plums & greys.

To dye with spruce cones, gather the cones from the forest floor throughout the year or after the storm. If they are dirty, give them a rinse and let them dry naturally. Store them in a cool place, out of direct sunlight. To dye with them, add them to your dye pot, cover them with water and simmer gently for 3-5 hours. For an extra strong bath, turn off the heat & let the cones sit in the bath overnight. The next day, remove the cones, your dye is now ready to use.

To learn more about how to get the colours above sign up for my monthly membership, The Colourway.

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