I generally prefer to use natural needles when I coil, but it’s hard to pass up an opportunity to dye needles when green ones become easily available. It’s never good practice to take green needles directly from a tree, or to cut branches for the purpose of harvesting those needles. But from time to time a branch may fall, or in the case of my friend Geoff, who owns a nursery, pruning a longleaf is not out of the question.
This is how I came to have a stockpile of green needles that I let dry in my sealed crawlspace (shhh, don’t tell the fire inspector). When left to dry in the dark, green needles will turn from vivid green to pale green or very light brown, allowing for greater uptake of dye.
Some people use fancy textile dyes that do a great job, but I’m not a pro at it so I do small-batch experiments with regular old Rit. Greens, blues and black are my preferences, although I have seen baskets made with vivid yellows, pinks and reds.
Today I tried an indigo color, doubling the amount of dye the directions call for, and adding both a cup of salt and a cup of vinegar to the dye bath. I don’t boil the water, but I do make it quite hot and keep the burners on low heat throughout. Once I like the color, I rinse the needles in cold water until the water runs clear and then let them dry in the sun.
It took this batch more than an hour to fully take the dye. The result was a rich dark blue with a nice sheen. I think I have a ceramic center that will be just right for the batch, so watch this space!