American Smoketree dye

With the temperature cooler today – only in the 80s! – I moved out of the kitchen and into the outdoors.

Took my pressure cooker and hot plate with me, too.

Do you remember a mention of some American Smoketree branches I brought home from Berea last weekend? Well, they almost went out into the woods before my love remembered that I had some branches I was saving – he thought they had come down in the heavy winds we had a couple days ago. So, to make sure I didn’t lose them, I took advantage of the cool and started cooking.

My research said the American Smoketree had been used extensively for dyeing purposes throughout the country, so much so that very few can be found in the wild. Lots was said about their being used for dyeing but no mention was made as to which part of the tree was used. A lot of the dye trees today are targeted for their bark, so that was my first thought.

The branches I brought home had already died on the tree. No chance of any sap being helpful in getting the bark off. They were also still full of leaves – dead, yellowed leaves – and little brittle twigs.

With the help of my trusty pocket knife, I managed to whittle off some of the bark from the thickest part of the branches – older bark. That went into an old pressure cooker (that can no longer be used on our smooth top stove due to its rounded bottom) and produced what looked to be a nice brown, but on cloth shows yellow.

The little brittle twigs and some leaf stems cooked up second, producing a similar liquid and coloring.

Leaves and some of the ‘smoke’ puffs (remains of the flowers) are cooking right now and I used my love’s circular saw to create some small wood chunks and shavings/sawdust.

The wonderfully surprising part of the tree is the yellow of the wood. Since I’m already getting yellow from the bark and twigs, my guess is the whole tree has previously been used for the dye. I’m expecting a brighter yellow from the wood – will keep you posted, and will also post pictures when I’m finished.

I don’t expect much coloring from the dead leaves. Mostly I think it will make an interesting paper pulp.

And all this from a dead branch. Wonder what one with sap would give?

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