Rowan Dye


Here is my last article of the year about plant dyeing. Autumn is definitely here, days are shorter and soon it will be time for me to join my family in France for the Christmas festivities. Still, I have things to show you before we finish the year.

August-September are a good period on Lewis to harvest Rowan Berries. The tree grows very well here and they are not rare. In the past it was often planted in front of a house to protect it from the fairies.

“Rowan protected coffins and babies’ cradles, and was attached to the horns of cattle. It is still thought unlucky to fell a rowan tree, especially in the Scottish Highlands. For some, rowan was the tree of the fairies. It was wise to keep a rowan staff handy at midsummer as an escape route, should someone become trapped in a fairy ring.”

Witch’s garden, plants in folklore, magic and traditional medicine, by Sandra Lawrence, Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, 2020.

Today we are not going to speak about fairies but certainly about plant dye. My first attempt to dye with rowan berries is back in 2021 and it wasn’t a conclusive test. I decided to try again this year by using a larger quantity of berries and this time, I am very thrilled about it.

As always I practice my tests first on cotton or linen fabric. A soft pink appeared and to my great surprise the light test didn’t fade the colour but turned it in a shade of orange.

As for the iron soup, as usual I used it to modify the initial colour and obtained a light grey.

I made only 2 baskets with this dye and they are already sold out. However, I still have enough rowan berries in my freezer for one bowl. This new batch will be made at the beginning of 2024.

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