How to make natural black dye with acorns


Hi Creative Mamas! In this article I want to share with you one of my most exciting moments in natural dyeing which is the day that I discovered how to make my own black color with natural dyes!

I will share with you exactly how to make natural black dye with acorns. YES! Acorns! The humble little acorns that fall on the ground every Autumn. You can create beautiful tones of gold and ochre with acorns but you can also modify them and turn them into greys and blacks.

Acorns come from oak trees and we have lots of them here in New Zealand. When my kids were little we used to go and collect acorns at school just for fun. One day I gathered a lot of them and decided to do a little test with natural dyeing.

The results were that the acorns produced a beautiful ochre goldie color when used to dye silk and wool using the Hot Dyeing Method.  Unfortunately, the results were not the same when I tried using acorns in wool and silk using the Solar Dyeing Method. ( I even left the acorns in the solar dyeing jar for six months and still I got no color out of that process).

However, the color that I got from the Hot Dyeing Method was so amazing that I got curious and stared playing with color modifiers.

In this tutorial I will show you how to make natural black dye with acorns using iron water as a color modifier. But first let’s get started in extracting that beautiful gold color from the acorns.

For this tutorial we are going to focus on protein fibers such as silk and wool. Fiber classification and knowing exactly what fiber you are working on is critical in natural dyeing because you need natural fibers to be able to absorb the natural dyes.

So, it’s very important that you do a fabric test to ensure that your wool is 100 % wool and it’s not acrylic and the same goes for fabric.  So, always do a Fabric Burn Test to be sure you you have 100 % natural fibers. Natural dyeing will only work on natural fibers 

For this tutorial we will cover the following processes

  • Scouring Process
  • Mordant Process
  • Dye Extraction/Dye Bath
  • Hot Dyeing Method
  • Modifiers

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Materials & equipment

Before you start make sure that you weigh your fabric. My fabric weighs 200 grs and its a mix of wool fabric and silk fabric.

Tutorial: How to make black dye with acorns

Step 1 & 2: Scouring Process and Mordanting Process

It’s very important to ensure all fibers are clean from oils, dirt and industrial processes and thats why we need to scour the fabric.

Also we need to make sure that the fabric is pre treated through a mordanting process to open the fibers to receive the color dyes. Please refer in detail to Scouring and Mordanting Processes here. 

For this tutorial I am using the following recipe: 10 % Allum WOF (weight of fabric).So I started with 200 grs of fabric and yarn so I am using 20 grs of Allum.

Step 3: Dye Bath/Dye Extraction

OK, so this is the most fun part.

  • Fill a big pot with water and the acorns
  • Bring to a simmer. Keep simmering for 1 hour.
  • Turn the heat off and let it cool naturally. You can leave cooling overnight.
  • Strain and use as dye bath.
  • My rule for dyeing with acorns is 300% WOF (weight of fabric)

PRO TIP: after extracting the dye allow the dye and the acorns to cool. Leave overnight to extract as much color as possible. Strain the next day.

black dye with acorns

Step 4: Hot Dyeing Method

Transfer strained dye bath to a stainless steel pot. Fill with more clear water. Add the mordanted and pre wetted fiber to the dye bath. Make sure there is enough space in the pot so that the fabric and yarn can move freely.

Slowly raise temperature to a simmer. Simmer for 1 hour. Remove from the dye bath. Rinse fiber in lukewarm water. Make sure the water runs clear of dye.

Hang it to dry away from sunlight. The illustration below show you the beautiful gold color that I got from the acorn dye bath. Just beautiful!!!!!!

acorn dyed silk fabric

How to make black dye with acorns?

So let’s turn this beautiful gold silk into a dark charcoal grey or black. First you need the iron water.

Download your Free Iron Water Recipe PDF

For a detailed step by step illustrated tutorial on how to make your own iron water read here.

Step 5: Modifying color using iron water

Allow the dye bath to cool to room temperature. Pour the iron water into the acorn dye bath by mixing a 1:1 ratio of the iron water and clear water. Stir.

Place your gold dyed silk or wool piece inside the dye bath again. Make sure that the fabric is wet before it goes inside the dye pot. Stir to make sure that the fiber is moving freely and that the modifier is reaching all areas of the fiber.

In this case the color changed almost immediately so I just kept stirring and checking the color all the time. See in the illustration below the change in color. This only took three minutes!

how to make black dye with acorns tutorial. Stirring the silk into the iron water

Keep stirring and checking the fabric. After six minutes this was the resulting change in color! Illustration below.

black dye acorns. Result of submerging the dyed silk into iron water gives a black color

After ten minutes of constant checking and stirring I was happy with the color. It was a rich black color. Once you have obtained the desired tone just simple remove from the dye bath, rinse super well and wash with a PH neutral soap to remove all sediments of iron from the fabric.

obtaining a black dye from acorns. The result after mixing the gold dye from acorns into the iron water . It gives a natural black color.

This is the beautiful black that I was able to create by dyeing with acorns and modifying with iron water 🙂

gold and black dyed silk from dyeing with acorns

How to dye your clothes black naturally?

Make sure you are dyeing a garment that is 100% silk or wool. Follow the steps outlined above but make sure that your pot is big enough and that the proportions of the weight of fabric and the weight of acorns is the same as in this tutorial. always keep it to 300%.

Check out these amazing natural dyeing tutorials:

How to dye beautiful pinks with Avocado dyes

How to dye fabric with onion skins

Fabric Printing With Natural Dyes

Natural Bundle Dyeing, make your own DIY scarf

The Beginners Guide to Solar Dyeing

How to Eco Print on Paper

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