Coast Colours – Apple Bark

The apple (Malus domestica) was brought to North America in the 17th century by colonists.  At one time there were thousands of varieties of apples with greatly differing sizes, shapes, colours and markings.  There were early, midseason and late varieties for fresh eating, varieties for winter storage and others for baking, drying and cider.  Sadly, many of these became extinct in favour of varieties that were suited to mass marketing.  Fortunately, however, heirloom apples have become popular and the varieties that were preserved can be enjoyed by people today.


Late winter and early spring, when trees are being pruned, are wonderful times to dye with apple bark.


My apple bark was given to me last fall by Kimberly.  I put it in a pot to soak for a couple of weeks.  And forgot it…  Recently, I wondered what one of my pots was doing sitting in a back corner of my deck and I took off the lid.  Oh my!

There was a strong sweet smell of fermenting so I boiled the bark for 6 hours with the lid off the pot.  I let it sit for a day and then added the fibre and fabric.  I heated the bath to just below the boiling point for several hours and then let everything sit in the bath for the next day.


When in the sun, the mohair roving shone like burnished gold.  The wool fabric (top left) and wool pre-felt (top right) were also a beautiful deep bright gold.  The cotton was pale yellow (darker than shown).  The brightness of the colour might be due to the long fermentation time or the fact that Kimberly had scraped the bark off young branches and twigs.

Heather Apple

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