Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Concord Grape Juice and Dye

Concord Grape Abundance 2022

        Concord Grapes in the Steam Juicer basket.

Friends were given sixty pounds of organically grown Concord grapes! Yes, this is our season of abundance, and I am thankful for it. My friends knew immediately that this was much more grapes than they could handle.  Being very framily minded, they reached out, contacts were made to share in this bounty; and I was one to receive some of this berry goodness! 

Growing up my favorite jelly was Concord because that is what my mother mostly served. After a little happy dance, I consider what to do with this unexpected gift?

First thought was jelly with that quickly turning to  juice being the best option because with juice, I can drink it, turn some into jelly, or even wine. 

So what do Concord grapes have to do with fiber art? You may already know. It is because of all the dark pigments in this grape's skin. The red and purple pigments in the Concord grape skin are nutrient rich and also make a fabric dye.

This is the juice fresh from the steam juicer before placing it onto the steam canner tray.

Beginning with the discards from the juice, a mixture of stems, unripe green grapes and ones unsuitable, I steam juiced the lot of it and had about a quart of dye juice.  Since I was experimenting with mordants, I added one tablespoon of Citric Acid, stirred to dissolve, then placed in different types of white fabrics, being sure to submerge them all. Of course, the first into the dye bath is the first to begin absorbing the pigments. 


As an afterthought, I decided to toss in a piece of old orange cotton sheet with the Itajime clamp technique. This lot of fabric was simmered for about twenty minutes before removing the pan from the heat and leaving it overnight to improve (I hoped) pigment absorption. I was a little concerned that being in the container overnight would destroy the Itajime design, but I was happily wrong. Something I find after a half century (no kidding) of upcycling, that often washed fabrics readily take in pigments.

Look at that color!  How to hold onto that?  The fabrics were simmered gently for only twenty minutes before removing from heat.  I left the fabric to cool overnight in the dye bath, dried it, ironed it then let it rest a few hours before I washed the fabric in cold water using a mild detergent before a final rinse in cold water. 

I experimented with different rinses on the Concord Grape fabrics


I experimented with a white vinegar rinse, citric acid rinse, a baking soda rinse, and a dish detergent only soap rinse, testing both cold and hot water; to see what were some possibilities within the range of color. Baking soda modified color toward blue to purple gray. I achieved retention of the most grape color with the cold soap water rinse. I usually explore sea salt and will get to that another time.

           If a fabric received a mordant it was Citric Acid.

Here are my beautiful fabrics!  The range of colors comes from using a mixture of mordants on cotton, cotton knit, cotton velveteen and the cotton over dye upcycle on orange.  One orange piece, after testing it with everything, became nearly a purpley brown.

As botanical dyers, you realize that water, being different from location to location, may create different results; so, use my experiments only as a reference point to your own leap toward your own concrete understandings. I suggest that when using tap water for my plants, or botanical dye, that you set the water out for at least an hour or more before using.

Go get some Concord or dark pigmented grapes and have fun and enjoy a food and fiber color adventure!

Many satisfying sewing and fiber adventures to you.