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Pokeberry Ink


fiberdrunk
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According to traditional woodworking guru Roy Underhill, pokeberry juice is traditionally used with snap-lines. (Obviously not the modern ones with the fully enclosed reels, designed for powdered chalk).

--

James H. H. Lampert

Professional Dilettante

 

Posted Image was once a bottle of ink

Inky, Dinky, Thinky, Inky,

Blacky minky, Bottle of ink! -- Edward Lear

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We're about a month behind schedule bloom-wise here in NC, compared with last year. We may not have berries until August at this rate. Some of the pokeweed in my yard are just beginning to flower.

Find my homemade ink recipes on my Flickr page here.

 

"I don't wait for inspiration; inspiration waits for me." --Akiane Kramarik

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  • 1 month later...

fiberdrunk, I find it quite odd when you said the ink faded quickly and browned, as from what I hear from my father's experience, the ink he used was also made from pokeberry (I'm assuming this, as the plant he showed me looked exactly like the ones shown here), and the ink would still be vibrant and purple if he still had one of his old notebooks today (he had decided not to take his notebooks with him when he returned here from visiting his home country).

 

Also, I've had to intentionally grow weeds, never thought that would happen. Unfortunately, we planted the pokeweed quite late into the season, so we might have to wait until next year for berries.

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I keep an ink notebook and have done several pokeberry samples on various papers (cheap acidic graph papers and nice 100% cotton). One sample is from 2010. Still pinkish, but it has faded remarkably, even though it has been kept in the pages of a book in a cool dark room. If your dad has found a way to help this ink last longer, I'd love to know his recipe! I've tried both un-fermented and fermented recipes and they both fade fast (like, within 3 years, considerably... some of my samples have almost disappeared entirely). The fermented ones browned faster. The vinegar recipe stays pink longer. A sample written last summer still looks pink.

 

I'm bummed. We should have been picking pokeberries around here by now. The pokeweed that grows in my own yard is still hung up on the flowering stage. I think it's rained so much this summer in NC that it's kept the bees away and they're just not getting pollinated.

Find my homemade ink recipes on my Flickr page here.

 

"I don't wait for inspiration; inspiration waits for me." --Akiane Kramarik

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Here's the faded sample (after only 3 years). You can see the same sample when it was very first scanned in 2010 at the beginning of this thread. It's quite the difference! This was written on Strathmore100% Cotton (acid-free) with a glass pen and stored within the pages of my ink notebook. So I can't account for the dramatic fading other than pokeberry just isn't meant to last.

 

http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7427/9520780756_8e89b5c224_b.jpg

Edited by fiberdrunk

Find my homemade ink recipes on my Flickr page here.

 

"I don't wait for inspiration; inspiration waits for me." --Akiane Kramarik

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I asked my dad about it, the only "recipe" he used was just the juice of the berries, nothing added. We are uncertain about the life of the ink in the bottle, but once it's on paper, it's there for good (he had a daily journal at age ten, and when he returned to his home country twenty years later, the writing looked pretty much good as new).

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Interesting. I'll have to try it next with the juice only and see how it does. The recipe I made last year with alum still seems to be holding its own (little fading and still pink). We'll see where it is in a couple years.

Find my homemade ink recipes on my Flickr page here.

 

"I don't wait for inspiration; inspiration waits for me." --Akiane Kramarik

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I was out mowing today and was almost hit in the head by a big cluster of poke berries and immediately thought of this thread. Funny that it popped back up today! Still haven't tried to make ink, but have the makings in my back yard.

PAKMAN

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  • 3 weeks later...

i'd forgotten about this thread too.

 

I finally got around to trying my ink. Yuck! It was a really pale brown. Let that be a lesson, don't let it sit on your table for two years.

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Yeah, unfortunately, it just doesn't age well at all.

Find my homemade ink recipes on my Flickr page here.

 

"I don't wait for inspiration; inspiration waits for me." --Akiane Kramarik

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  • 3 weeks later...

I asked my dad about it, the only "recipe" he used was just the juice of the berries, nothing added. We are uncertain about the life of the ink in the bottle, but once it's on paper, it's there for good (he had a daily journal at age ten, and when he returned to his home country twenty years later, the writing looked pretty much good as new).

 

I've just made a fresh batch of this ink with the pokeberry juice only (i.e. no alcohol or vinegar or other additives. I did put whole cloves in the bottle just to prevent molding and fermentation but they don't break down into the ink). We'll see how well this written sample holds up, whether it browns or fades over time or keeps its pink color.

 

http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3718/9969199725_dd59c81c00_c.jpg

Find my homemade ink recipes on my Flickr page here.

 

"I don't wait for inspiration; inspiration waits for me." --Akiane Kramarik

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Quick observation about the pokeberry juice. I open the bottle a day after making it, and there was some pressure building up inside the bottle. So it is beginning to ferment, since there is no vinegar or alcohol to prevent this from happening. I've since moved it into the fridge, to slow this down. So if you make it, keep it in the fridge, so you don't end up with some pink messes!

Find my homemade ink recipes on my Flickr page here.

 

"I don't wait for inspiration; inspiration waits for me." --Akiane Kramarik

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I just had the delightful privilege of receiving a bottle of Pokeberry ink from Fiberdrunk!!! Thank you Fiberdrunk!!!! I was thankfully warned that the ink was still fermenting in the bottle so opened mine with latex gloves on and with the bottle in the kitchen sink. When opened after its cross-country trip through the mail the ink fizzed up like a shaken soda. I've decanted the remainder to an old, and not remotely airtight, inkwell. Here's my test run.

 

http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3741/10028541935_3f71b2bd36_b.jpg

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That's an awesome seal!

 

I remember the fermentation of my ink. I had collected my pokeberries into a poland spring bottle. It swelled up like a balloon. Smelled great. I was so tempted to taste it...

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I just had the delightful privilege of receiving a bottle of Pokeberry ink from Fiberdrunk!!! Thank you Fiberdrunk!!!! I was thankfully warned that the ink was still fermenting in the bottle so opened mine with latex gloves on and with the bottle in the kitchen sink. When opened after its cross-country trip through the mail the ink fizzed up like a shaken soda. I've decanted the remainder to an old, and not remotely airtight, inkwell. Here's my test run.

 

http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3741/10028541935_3f71b2bd36_b.jpg

 

So pretty! I really need to improve my penmanship. I make all this cool ink, but my penmanship pretty much sucks! Need to work on my Spencerian so my penmanship will be well-matched with my inks...

Edited by fiberdrunk

Find my homemade ink recipes on my Flickr page here.

 

"I don't wait for inspiration; inspiration waits for me." --Akiane Kramarik

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  • 3 weeks later...

My plain pokeberry juice ink still seems to be flowing pretty well-- by now, the vinegar and alcohol versions of the recipe would have separated out and been worthless as ink. So that's a hopeful sign.

 

JBB had the brilliant idea of using a

for berry juice inks so they don't have to be refrigerated. The lock takes care of the built-up pressure in the bottle, so no inky explosions. Edited by fiberdrunk

Find my homemade ink recipes on my Flickr page here.

 

"I don't wait for inspiration; inspiration waits for me." --Akiane Kramarik

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Here's a photograph of the fermentation lock at work, which JBB sent me!. This is with blueberry juice. We'll see how well blueberries make ink. Even found a small ink bottle that the fermentation lock fits into! The lock bubbles while fermentation is happening and stops when it's finished. I used frozen blueberries (thawed). They weren't as "juicy" as the pokeberries. I made some writing samples and so far it doesn't flow as well as the pokeberries, even after filtering. The ink goes down pinkish and then oxidizes to blue. We'll see what fermenation does to it. This Druid's Garden website got some lovely inks from huckleberry, pokeberry, buckthorn, etc. (she cooks hers down). The huckleberries produced a lovely blue ink. That's what made me think of giving blueberries a try (I don't think we have huckleberries in the south). Anyway, the experimentation continues...

 

http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5549/10415732066_b7b177a82e.jpg

 

 

Blueberry ink sample (unfermented):

 

http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3710/10415907306_6ec0d655cf.jpg

Edited by fiberdrunk

Find my homemade ink recipes on my Flickr page here.

 

"I don't wait for inspiration; inspiration waits for me." --Akiane Kramarik

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Here's a photograph of the fermentation lock at work, which JBB sent me!. This is with blueberry juice. We'll see how well blueberries make ink. Even found a small ink bottle that the fermentation lock fits into! The lock bubbles while fermentation is happening and stops when it's finished. I used frozen blueberries (thawed). They weren't as "juicy" as the pokeberries. I made some writing samples and so far it doesn't flow as well as the pokeberries, even after filtering. The ink goes down pinkish and then oxidizes to blue. We'll see what fermenation does to it. This Druid's Garden website got some lovely inks from huckleberry, pokeberry, buckthorn, etc. (she cooks hers down). The huckleberries produced a lovely blue ink. That's what made me think of giving blueberries a try (I don't think we have huckleberries in the south). Anyway, the experimentation continues...

 

http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5549/10415732066_b7b177a82e.jpg

 

 

Blueberry ink sample (unfermented):

 

http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3710/10415907306_6ec0d655cf.jpg

I'm glad that the air lock is working!

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  • 2 weeks later...

I asked my dad about it, the only "recipe" he used was just the juice of the berries, nothing added. We are uncertain about the life of the ink in the bottle, but once it's on paper, it's there for good (he had a daily journal at age ten, and when he returned to his home country twenty years later, the writing looked pretty much good as new).

 

It's been over a month since I made the pokeberry juice ink (juice only, without additives), and so far its shelf-life in the bottle has outlasted all the other recipes I've tried that had additives in them. It has not precipitated out or turned brown yet (the other recipes would have by now). I do have to keep it in the fridge, but I don't mind that. So thanks for the tip! I feel really hopeful that this will be the best "recipe" of all for pokeberry ink (i.e. by best, I mean the longest shelf-life and longest lasting on the page, based on what you mentioned with your dad's journals). It's Occam's Razer-- the simplest way is usually the best way! Lesson learned: don't try to improve upon nature!

 

By the way, I've updated the Pokeberry Ink entry on the Open-Ink Wiki here. So all my adventures and misadventures with pokeberry inks are there in one place. I gave you a plug there at the end.

Edited by fiberdrunk

Find my homemade ink recipes on my Flickr page here.

 

"I don't wait for inspiration; inspiration waits for me." --Akiane Kramarik

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My father never had to worry about fermenting, but then he made small batches that lasted a couple of weeks at most, and had the available ingredients to make more at any given time. So the shelf life of your ink kind of surprised me, as I didn't really have much experience with anything of that sort, but I would have assumed it wouldn't last long on the shelf.

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