I have a plethora of persimmon trees, so for the last two years I have been trying to use them for natural dyeing, hoping they would produce a color of their own or be a good mordant. And the results have been disappointing.
India Flint says, “Persimmon juice has been used as a mordant both fresh and fermented,” (Eco-Colour, p. 99) but the picture she shows is of Diospyros kaki, and mine is Diospyros virginiana.
Over the last two years, I have put scoured muslin samples through every combination of soaking, mashing, heating, dipping, freezing, exposing to the sun, re-dipping, and re-heating you can imagine. I have had a giant black enamel pot of mashed persimmons sitting on my porch for an entire year! (A little mold forms on the top, but there is no odor.) Every now and then I would drop in some fabric, and after days or weeks pull it out and let it sit in the sun, and then re-dip. I have dipped in persimmons, and then in soy milk, and back in persimmon, etc.
I have only been able to find a few helpful articles online for further information, a master’s thesis on colorfastness with persimmons by Nicholas Malensek, and these two posts by Janice Paine Dawes. Janice used common persimmon too, and got interesting results with a technique that looked pretty straightforward. I tried to follow her technique, but my results were minimal.
I have also tried these samples with other natural dyes, to see if the persimmons can serve as a good mordant. I tried them with goldenrod and parsley hawthorn, to no avail.
I found no difference between fresh and frozen persimmons, so if you are going to try this for yourself, and don’t have time right after you get the persimmons, you can stick them in the freezer until you get around to it. Also, I found a meat tenderizer mashed up the persimmons better, faster, and with less mess than sticking them in my food processor. I just sliced them in half and then bashed them with the meat tenderizer.
The best I got was a pale khaki color, and there is also a very crisp feel to the cotton. But there is so much work to the picking and mashing of the persimmons, that the results don’t seem worth the effort.
If my samples were my only indication, I would just think this plant is not really suitable for dyeing, but then there is this:
If you are like me, when a dish like this comes out after the dishwasher has been run, you think, “What good colorfast dye! How can I replicate this?!” This is a dish that I mashed the persimmons in, and I can not get it clean! After going through the dishwasher, it still looks like chocolate pudding was just scraped out of it. How is it that the color wouldn’t show up on cloth, but it sticks to china?
My brilliant thought was to reheat some of the samples in water with a little of the dishwashing powder added. Within a few minutes, it had gotten really dark, and I thought I had discovered something! But when it dried it was not much darker than any of the other samples.
For the really blotchy sample on far left above, I just stamped some cut persimmons onto the cloth. I tried heating and sun exposure and nothing worked. When I threw it into the water and dishwasher powder, the juice blotches turned color.
The yarn looks amazing, right? But it feels horrible! Very brittle and sticky. Maybe it could be used to weave sails or tents, but other than that, I wouldn’t use it.
So, unless any of you fine people can help me out with more information, I think I am going to give up on persimmons. Following Dre’s advice on ripeness, I will eat a few myself, but I will leave the rest for the deer, foxes, and coyotes.
The sample marked 51-54 is quite a nice shade! I often find the dye bath results perplexing. It’s all chemistry and magic! Jane
The leave give a nice shade of olive green with ferro sulfate.
Thanks for sharing all your efforts! *;-)
I am trying it now!!!
You are certainly tenacious! Poor dinner plate. It looks like it has a terrible case of some disease.
I just want to make good use of what is around here and FREE!! 🙂
I’ve never dyed with persimmons, so I’ve nothing to offer. Out of curiousity, at what stage of ripeness are you picking them for dyeing? Could that effect the results? I would think you’d want them pretty young.
You are right about young ones. My inclination last year was to go for ripe ones, like I would do for other plants, but I did happen to see that green ones are better for the tannins. But everything I find about tannins, either in acorns, or barks, or persimmons, just says to use the plants for the tannins – I can’t find a way to test for percentage of tannins in the water, or if I even need to do that, or how much weight of plant to water. I am erring on the side of lots of plants to water! But my results are not worth the effort, so far.
Checking out a newly published book on natural dyeing, “The Modern Natural Dyer” doesn’t mention persimmons. I’ve taken a class with the author and she is knowledgeable and experienced. Perhaps get in touch with Kristine Vejar at A Verb For Keeping Warm in Oakland, CA. Good luck!
I found this online. Perhaps you’ll find it of interest.
Thank you, I read the post. He certainly makes it sound simple! I would think the heat we have here could equal anything they have in Japan, but I did not get such dramatic results. I have more persimmons in the freezer – I will try again in the heat next summer!
Hmm, this is a tricky and perplexing situation. I’ve never tried this process myself but wonder if it’s in the “type” of persimmon trees; maybe the juice in other varieties is stronger. That’s about all I can think of…
I looked it up, and Japanese persimmons are in the same family, Diospyros, but they are a different species, kaki, instead of the virginiana and texana which I have tried. So I think you have a good reason for me there, and for now, that is the story I will stick to! 🙂
Well I learned with fruit trees many years ago.. they may all be peaches or pecans, erc, but they all are different n produce differently. Glad I could help.
Deb McClintock http://debmcclintock.me/category/dye/persimmon/ does persimmon with texana. Mine are virginiana which you mention. I had the best color with rayon and raw silk, cotton not so great. I have 2 hanks of wool yarn that I am going to do an ammonia dip to see what happens. It is all experimental and fun for me.
Thank you for stopping by and thanks for the link
I tried raw silk this week and got nothing! I have not tried rayon yet. I have also not tried ammonia with it.
This week I put a few of the samples in my jar of iron and vinegar, and got a little more color. However, I am just not getting enough color to go through the work of picking and mashing, I don’t think. It is just fun for me too, to try what grows around here. I have had such good results with waterleaf, dog fennel, hawthorn, and pokeberries that I am spoiled and not wanting to spend a lot of time on something that just gives faint color. But since they are free and I have a freezer full, I’m sure I will try more experiments! 🙂
Maybe its all in the water! I get zipidee do da from pokeberries and I have a raised garden full. Persimmon leaves gave me smashing eco prints so they are a do again for sure. I will have to try the leaves as dye by themselves. Free is wonderful.
I just read an article from korea, it states the persimmons are picked green and crushed and dried. kept for the tanin for year round dyeing. Regarding the juice of the orange persimmons the cotton is soaked in it over night, then stood on for ages to work the threads so the juice penetrates the fibres, it is then placed in dye pot and heated and left overnight. Will be an incipid colour to start with. Then the wet cloth is laid out in the sun for days!!! not an hour or two! Re-wetted each day to enrich the colour…you end up with fantastic orange…so keep going! I just bought an orange persimmon from my green grocer, and hope to dye with it tomorrow. Best of luck
Thank you for the information! I still have my persimmons in a dye kettle on the back porch, where they have steeped for 3 years now! I will have to try dipping cotton every day and letting it be in the sun for hours.
Looks like you’ve been experimenting with the ripe fruit. Try your experiments with the green fruit. Deb Mc
I did leave a piece of cotton in the dye for over a year, and it did get very dark brown and the cloth got a crispy texture. But about now is a good time of year to get the green fruits so I will try!
Oh and I just posted this within the month, might cover something you haven’t tried https://debmcclintock.me/2022/07/20/persimmon-recap-diospyros-texana/
Thank you, Deb, I found that post very informative!