• Kayla Powers

Dyeing with Staghorn Sumac

Staghorn Sumac is one of my favorite dye plants. The first and most obvious reason is that the range of colors it makes is gorgeous. As with all of my #30localdyeplants experiments, I am pre-mordanting the fiber (silk, raw silk, wool and cotton) with aluminum sulfate and ferrous sulfate which I ordered from MAIWA. The aluminum sulfate, aka alum, brings out the light and bright tones while the ferrous sulfate, aka iron, "saddens" the color. In this case, you can see the light and bright version is coral/salmon pink and the "sad" version is plum. The colors together are so beautiful.



Another thing I love about Sumac is that it's a native plant here in the midwestern United States. In my current exploration of a place based palette, I find that the native plants produce the colors that feel most like home and are most indicative of here. Sumac grows all over the place here in Detroit and I was able to gather this while out for a walk with my Maple. We were out walking by an abandoned school on the East Side of Detroit and there is this area where there were tennis courts and they are totally over grown with, among other plants, Staghorn Sumac.


I gathered the berries but you can use the leaves or the bark of Rhus Typhina also. Sumac is rich in tannins and is sometimes used in the mordanting process to help the color adhere to fiber, especially cellulose fibers. I have plans to incorporate this into my practice in the future.

After seeing what beautiful colors the berries made on silk, I mordanted and dyed a skein of my hand spun, peace silk from Muezart.



I'm working on a collection of weavings that will include local, native plant dyes so that's what I'll use this silk yarn for.



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