15 January 2012

Alder - Alnus glutinosa

A favourite tree of mine: Common Alder/Black Alder - or Rød-el as it's called in Denmark, which means Red Alder. I suppose the 'red' comes from the warm, glowing orange colour you can see when you've cut down a tree.

It's a fast growing species, and it often serves as a 'nursing tree' for slow growing trees like oak and beech. A protecting mama tree. I have Alder all around the border of my tiny woods, and when we cut down a tree to thin out (and make firewood), I have an infinite supply of dyeing material.

Bark, cones and leaves can be used for dyeing, and you don't need any mordants.

These samples are  Alder cones on silk, cotton, wool yarn and raw wool ...

 From top: cotton, linen and silk, soaked in iron water after dyeing with cones.

I had this wool knit cardigan for years without ever using it, it was a quite unbecoming pale lilac - for my fair complexion. After an Alder treatment de luxe it's now one of my favourites.

I'm going to try to make ink with the bark,  apparently the ink was formerly used in Norway to print on the hide side of lamb and sheep skin. You can see some examples of skin print here, not with Alder ink, though. If anybody have any experiences with Alder ink they'd like to share, I'd be delighted!