Dyeing with Blackberries: A Cautionary Tale

I decided to dye cheesecloth with blackberries this weekend while I had the house to myself. I picked blackberries from the wild canes on our allotment yesterday morning and then used 6 cups of berries with 7 cups of water to cook up the juice.

I brought the water and berries (crushed) to a simmer for 30 minutes, strained out the pulp then put in the prepared cheesecloth. You prep the cheesecloth by soaking it in boiling salted water; the water is a fixative for dyeing in fruit juices. I simmered it for another 30 minutes, then left it in overnight.

I didn’t get photos of it straight out of the pot, but it was the same strong purple as blackberry juice. I started to rinse it, and rinse it and rinse it, changing the water 4-5 times. Eventually I decided to stop as all the red was gone from the cloth and I had a purple-blue shade.

First piece right after rinsing

I hung it up to dry. When I went back to it 20 minutes later it had changed colour again to a grey-purple. I had put in the 2nd piece of cheesecloth in and had simmered that for 30 minutes and it had been about 30 more since I had turned off the stove. I decided to rinse it out now. It was a lovely light purple. I put them side by side and the difference was incredible. I thought I’d take some photos and as I did I realised the 2nd one was already fading in colour.

Just after rinsing the 2nd piece

5 minutes later… I haven’t edited the photos in any way – they were taken outside in cloudy conditions.

5 minutes after hanging the 2nd piece up.

So as you can see, dyeing cheesecloth with blackberries was a dud. I ended up with 2 dull grey pieces of cheesecloth – at least they are right now. As I finish up this post, I looked at the 2nd piece again, and it’s almost completely grey-purple too, just a lighter tint. My advice if you want to try dying using plants, really research which ones make the best dyes!


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