Tuesday, November 3, 2015


I've written about pokeberry before, and received the only anonymous comment whose identity I did not actually know, telling me that I was irresponsible for using and writing about poke; didn't I realize it was toxic? Well, I did, which is why we were not dining on pokeberries, but using them as an ink for our drawings.  However, I have since heard of many and varied uses for poke, including ingesting it in small amounts.  I'd want more information before doing that myself, but the more I learn the more I want to learn about this plant.  (As a side note, many of the foods and medicine we consider safe are also toxic at high levels. It is helpful to understand what it is you are eating!)

M with her hands in the poke. Her headband is dyed with the berries.
Our friends have been dying wool with plants this fall and invited Ani and I over to dye with poke, which is plentiful in this area.  We picked as much as we could find in a morning, and headed over. Using vinegar as the mordant, and this book from the library, we dyed wool roving we'd brought over, and a couple of cotton items.

The wool turned out beautifully, the color so deep.  The cotton was much lighter, and from what I've read, the pokeberry dye is not light-fast, so I expect the color will change over time. When we made the pokeberry ink, the color started out a nice purple, and turned brown after a while.  Apparently, poke was a popular berry used for ink during the Civil War; any letters or writings from that time that appear to have been written with brown ink are written in poke.

drying in the driveway
Ani's tye-died shirt turned out a lovely light pink. We'll see how long it lasts!

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