Trying a Homemade Sorrel Dye

A while back two things happened:

  1. I made a bowl from a piece of crepe myrtle, but completely botched it due to a hole in the bottom from the wood worm screw. For whatever reason, I held on to it almost like a reminder to myself to take things slow and think things through.
  2. I bought a large bag of dried sorrel from the local Asian market to make some iced ginger sorrel tea.

What is sorrel you ask? Sorrel is a type of hibiscus found in the Caribbean. You can generally find it in your local “international” grocery stores as Indian sorrel, Jamaican sorrel, red sorrel, Florida cranberry, rosella, or Ambada. Or of course, just head online for some. Please don’t just try to brew something from the hibiscus growing in your garden, as many varieties are not safe for consumption. You’ll want the Hibiscus sabdariffa variety.

Well, I made the tea. I probably should have used dried ginger, and I definitely should not have let it brew for as long as I did (which was for two hours per the instructions). It was rather bitter and undrinkable. But… It was an incredible color!

It seemed like a waste to just pour this jug of super strength sorrel tea down the drain. For some reason I suddenly wondered what sort of color it would impart on a piece of wood. Lo and behold, I had a great crepe myrtle bowl that had no finish on it, so I knew it would take the dye!

I placed the wood bowl in a large glass bowl and covered it the sorrel tea. Since wood does seem to like to float, much like a medieval witch, I put the glass jug on top to hold it down. Then it was just a matter of waiting overnight. Well, more like a full day… You get the idea.

In the end the bowl came out better than I had expected. The parts which had a good, smooth finish came out with some lovely shades of pink and purple.

The rough patches went deep purple, but briefly lightened up some over the past few weeks before going dark again. I fear this time it’s a mold, so I’ll have to figure out how to dry it better than the garage in the Texas summer heat.

In the end it was a great little experiment, and the dye really made the grain pop in a few places. I’ll definitely be playing around with more dyes in the future though.

As for drinking the sorrel? I’ll give it another go. However, this time I’m going with something a little more fortified: Sorrel Drink: A Ruby Red Festive Caribbean Punch

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