Anglo-Saxon colours from oak leaves and acorns

Although walnut hulls are often the dye of choice for browns, I decided to use oak leaves and acorns in my tests, because the walnut tree is not native to Britain and walnuts may not have been widely available during the early Anglo-Saxon period. I harvested the acorns and oak leaves in early Autumn and dried the leaves before use. As oak leaves and acorns are rich in tannin, no mordant is needed.

The first photo below shows colours from oak leaves. An alum or clubmoss mordant produced slightly more yellowish colours and a tannin mordant made the colours deeper. An alkaline modifier increased the depth of these colours. Mid-grey was achieved on unmordanted fibres modified in iron and a very dark grey was achieved on tannin-mordanted fibres modified in iron.

The second photo below shows colours from acorns. The comments on mordants and modifiers, made above for oak leaves, also apply to acorns. The  dark grey was achieved on tannin-mordanted fibres modified in iron.


4 replies
  1. Ulrike
    Ulrike says:

    Since I live near an oak wood, I experimented with oak leaves and acorns on old cotton and linen during the summer. The acorns were from last year and the leaves were fresh from fallen branches. I also was able to collect some oak bark. I shredded it and boiled it in a pot. On cotton it gives a beautiful brown, which darkens slightly over time. Modified with iron I got some silvery grey on old damask cotton (probably due to the sheeny surface) and some wonderful darkish grey on plain cotton. Both of which are not possible to ban on photo. Which is really a shame. Later this week I will throw some of the oak bark dyed linen in madder and see how and if it changes the colour of it.
    Only one thing baffles me with oak leaves. If they are so rich in tannins, why in all the world do they start to stink so quickly?

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