Sumac — triple hit!

From my research, sumac is a good source of tannin.  I’m looking for tannin that doesn’t add color.  And, is easily available.  When I was a kid, this “weed tree” was all over the place.  But now that I need it for dyeing…it’s scarce or inaccessible!   Staghorn Sumac puts up that red candle…which distinguishes it from the poisonous sumac.  I’m way too allergic to urushiol–I’ll give the poison sumac a wide berth!

At last, I found some Staghorn Sumac.  I decocted the leaves and then dipped the fabric.  Next I tested it with ferrous sulfate.  WOWSER…amazing black, so lots of tannin.  And, then I painted on some aluminum acetate.  Some color with aluminum.  LOTS of tannin!  One question I have is if the yellow color could be reduced by a process, or by picking the leaves at a different time–like earlier in the season.

Ferrous sulfate test on left.

Next step?  Get a sumac tree planted in my backyard.  Apparently the seed is a bit stubborn.  In nature, it passes through a bird and then sits over the winter.  To duplicate that process, I soaked the seeds (that red candle) in hot water, and then I’ll store it in the fridge for 30 days.  Just for fun, I threw a treated piece of fabric into the leftover water.  Wowser…another sumac gift…RED.  Well, OKOK light pink!!

Pink from Sumac

And for those who go the extra mile, you can make a drink from the red seed liquid.  When I was a kid, we used a very un P C term for this drink…now it’s called sumac-ade!


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