Thursday, September 21, 2023

Indiana Persimmon Astringent Dye Explorations



  Indiana Persimmon Astringent Dye Explorations

I grew up not knowing about the “Fruit of the Gods”, Persimmons or their amazing properties and uses which have been explored and appreciated, since the 12th century within Japan and Korea, and well used by both until the 19th century, on cloth, thread, tools, bamboo, paper, stencil making, woodwork and to waterproof leather. Persimmon astringent has now come back into focus as globally, alternatives to chemical dye process, water quality and environmental wellness intersect. Persimmon astringent is antifungal, antimicrobial and antioxidative with numerous other properties that has led to global research into the medical and environmental support uses as these protective properties are maintained on surfaces when applied.

First persimmons gathered and ready for crushing.


Continuing with my third year of exploring Morning Glory flowers for dye and print, I came across a few short references to persimmon dye. I knew that it had to be a thing because of the beautiful persimmon leaf print I obtained from a bundle dye made over a decade ago. The revisiting of my fabric process (an annual thing) found me reflecting back on the persimmon leaf print and considering what other dye secrets might be held within the tree.

Tee shirts and fabric after a few dips and a couple of sunny days.

In the midwest we have Diospyros kaki, whose fruits are very small in comparison to Asian varieties used for dye. Still, I wondered if there might be similar pigments to be extracted from my type of astringent persimmon. My web search led to very few explorations into the use of the American persimmon for dye, and none that I found were satisfied with their dye results. I did find one person working with fermented Japanese Kakishibu (see links). My continued research revealed useful information from Korean and Japanese sources pertaining to using fermented persimmon juice. My search eventually led me to a traditional Korean process using green persimmon.

Persimmon dyeing in Asia is called Kakishibu – Kaki is persimmon, shibu means astringent and it produces a variety of light to deep amber colour from unripe astringent persimmons. It does not need a mordant on cotton or linen and the color deepens over a month or more and with exposure to the sun. Depending on how much persimmon is applied, the surface will have a light to deep amber coating that will darken over time.

                                                                                         Persimmon Tee shirts & fabric after a few sunny days.


 I gathered fallen green persimmons beginning in mid July of this year. I began by following the simplest traditional processing technique, that of pounding the persimmons with a wooden mallet. I began my process traditionally but I had to use a blender, which turned out very well. I worked with the green persimmons through the season ending in the early part of September 2023 as the fruits shifted from being astringent toward being ripe.

I have put up over three gallons of juice for fermentation and will check for pigment development on cotton next August, then again the following year, which I’ve read is the traditional Japanese fermentation period for Kakishibu.

Persimmon texture and color play.
A sampling of persimmon dyed fabrics.
These links will take you to a few kakishibu resources - enjoy them and go on your own persimmon dye journey!


I hope that you will adventure out and do a little natural dyeing with green persimmons!



Patricia C. Coleman is a designer, lifelong creative artist and educator. She embraces non-toxic pigments, book arts, tessellation pleating, painting and quiltmaking; and combining them as much as possible. Morning Glory flower, dye in collaboration with other wild plants and weeds, are under intestigation in the search for stable greens.