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Oak Apple Gall Dye

Building a Palette of Place has become an ingrained part of my textile practice, and most recently I have been on the hunt for Oak Galls. These unusual looking things are formed by Oak Gall Wasps which use them to house their larvae. There are a number of different types of wasp that create these, and each has a slightly differnt shape, and amout of that all-important tannin.

Along Garlick Lane I found two types: Oak Apple Galls and Knopper Oak Galls, but first experiments had to be with the Oak Apples, partly because of their name and partly because they were around before the Knopper galls which were introduced in the 1950's, according to The Woodland Trust

I had researched the basic recipe for making oak gall ink, but could only find marble galls mentioned as the tannin source, none of which I could find along the lane, so I made my own method for a fabric dye...

As I only had a small handful of galls, I started by breaking them up into a jam jar. These aren't hard like the knoppers or the marble galls, but a soft, spongy texture, a bit like rotten wood, but I managed to break them all open, and some of the bigger ones, I broke into multiple pieces, just to increase the surface area. I then covered with kettle-hot water and left to steep overnight.

You can see from the results above that it worked! A tannin rich, tea-coloured liquid was strained off, before I dipped cotton canvas. The magic happens when you mix tannin with iron, in this case my trusty pot of rust water. A quick dip in that and as the fabric oxidised a deep shade of black appeared.

I already have plans for incorporating this dye into my next Garlick Lane piece, so watch this space!

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