Friday, March 18, 2016

Dyeing skins green with Buckthorn berries, ripe berries Experiment 3

I was excited to try dyeing some leather green using another recipe from one of Mary Merrifield's translated Original Treatises.  "Someday", I secretly dreamed, "Mistress Isabel Chamberlaine might make my wish a reality and take me as an apprentice.  I'll need a green belt!"  Spoiler alert... I was apprenticed at Birka!

Adrienne's Experiment steps:
Collect materials
 Suit up with nitrile gloves, goggles over glasses and dust mask!

Back to the medieval inspiration for the dream for the need of a green belt...

Bolognese MS De Tintis ad Tigendum Pellum (Merrifield 558)
I wasn't sure what a medieval "boiler" was.  Not wanting to contaminate any of my food-grade cast iron pots, I used the same corning ware sauce pan as in Experiment 2.  I used another 100g of the ripe buckthorn berries from Shana's.  They had a few leafy bits but I wasn't willing to arduously pick that out and I didn't want to contaminate my berries by rinsing them.

Combining the ripe berries with the same quantity, by weight, of organic, unfiltered cider vinegar (Bragg brand) I continued to follow the instructions.  I put it on the simmer burner of my gas stove on low for fourty-one minutes.  When the berries and vinegar had "boiled a little" I took it off the heat.  I let it cool a bit then poured it into a washed, secured square of linen over a clean jar then squeezed the juice out into the sealable glass jar.

When I tried to paint it, the shinier 'outside' part of my leather just achieved a blueish gloss and the sueded part still blueish.  Maybe it's just because it's a modernly prepared piece of leather?  

Painting the first three experiments out on a small piece of leather, the only one that's green is Experiment 2.

I painted them out again onto what turned out to be chromium tanned moose leather six months later with pretty much the same results.

                                              Left 3/18/16                Right 9/15/15
                                         Experiment 1                   Experiments 3,2 and 1  
                                         Experiment 3
                                         Experiment 2

Tomorrow I'll try again on Vegetable tanned leather from Birka.


  1. Adrienne, check out the recipe in De Arte Illuminandi. And while yes, you can boil them, it isn't necessary for making sap green paint. Nor is the vinegar. If you pick the berries in September when the outside is black and they are fulled with purple juice -before the seeds develop- all that is necessary is to squash them, wring the juice through a cloth, and then add a little rock alum and a calcium source. That can be as simple as 6-8 berries of juice in a clam shell with a pinch of alum. And it has its own binder. For larger amounts I have made enough to fill a bowl, used a similar proportion of alum (cooking the alum in it will melt the alum into solution), and then just drop in a bag of chalk bits or broken shells. Remove the bag when the color is green enough. NOTE: This won't fix the dye onto the leather so it is waterproof. Do you know the Plictho manuscript? It is a dyer's instruction book from the 16th c. which follows medieval use.

  2. I don't know the Plictho manuscript, I'll have to check it out! Thanks!!