Green Persimmon Tannin Dyeing

In my studio, I explore natural dyes that can be grown or foraged in our climate.  My intention is to share our bio-regional color story and explore plants that will not require excessive water or energy to care for.  I was very excited to discover an article a while back, that shared the Japanese tradition and recipe for green persimmon dyeing.  These fruits grow wonderfully in our Southern California region, are loaded with vitamin A, C, antioxidants, fiber, and the hard to acquire manganese. 

The Fuyu persimmon is the crunchy, Saturn-shaped persimmon I speak about, pictured here (opposed to the oblong-shaped, Hachiya variety, which gets soft and custard-like when ripe- also delicious!) is sweet and delicious when orange and mature.  For our dyeing purposes, however, we are looking for the immature, green persimmon, that we find in August.  

The article I read was about a woman who had traveled back to her hometown in Japan and rediscovered the tradition of green persimmon dyeing.  Her story described the process of how the sun "tans" the persimmon painted fabric.  In fact, this is the nature of tannins and one reason why this is such a special dye. Unlike other dyes, a true tannin, will darken in the sunlight over time- and especially the green persimmon.

I've explored the process and this is the first recipe I've come up with.  I hope you enjoy this fall fruit as much as I do. Please share your results too:)

1. Harvest green persimmons in August before their tannin turns to sugar

2. Pulverize the fruit in a blender or food processor until it is almost pasty.

3. Press persimmon paste through a fine cheesecloth or muslin and catch the juice in another bowl.

4. Paint persimmon juice onto paper or textile for waterproofing and color.

5. Lay fabric in direct sunlight immediately and leave for days/until your desired shade is achieved.


kristin morrison
Preserving Textile Arts and Culture in Oaxaca

Preserving the art of natural dyeing is not only important to the art itself, but also to the preservation of a culture.  These dyers and weavers from Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, have been practicing their craft for centuries, and fortunately have been passing down knowledge for generations.  Thanks to their commitment to teaching and practicing, the knowledge of natural dyeing has been preserved and artists practicing natural dyeing has been steadily growing over the last decade. 

It is important to our movement in slow textiles and circular fashion to perpetuate and grow this knowledge by experimenting and sharing our own journey.

Here is an excerpt from the original article posted by the New York Times, "In Mexico, Weavers Embrace Natural Alternatives to Toxic Dyes":


“We’d talk about the stories of the plants,” Mr. Gutiérrez, 39, recalled. “Where they grew, the colors that they provide, what’s the perfect timing to collect them......In this small village near Oaxaca, known for its hand-woven rugs, he and his family are among a small group of textile artisans working to preserve the use of plant and insect dyes, techniques that stretch back more than 1,000 years in the indigenous Zapotec tradition.......

Textile artists in many countries are increasingly turning to natural dyes, both as an attempt to revive ancient traditions and out of concerns about the environmental and health risks of synthetic dyes.

Natural dyes, though more expensive and harder to use than the chemical dyes that have largely supplanted them, produce more vivid colors and are safer and more environmentally friendly than their synthetic counterparts.

To be sure, natural pigments are not always benign. The plants they are extracted from can be poisonous, and heavy metal salts are often used to fix the colors to the fabric. The dyes fade more quickly from sun exposure than chemically produced colors, arguably rendering the textiles less sustainable.

But environmentalists have long worried about the damaging effects of the wide array of toxic chemicals — from sulfur and formaldehyde, to arsenic, copper, lead and mercury — routinely used in textile production.

Runoff from textile factories pollutes waterways and disrupts ecosystems worldwide. And long-term exposure to synthetic dyes — first discovered in 1856 by an English chemist, William Henry Perkin — has been linked to cancer and other illnesses

kristin morrison