Summer Dye Wrap-up
I had a lot of fun this summer finding out what colors I could get from plants here on the farm. Most of them were bland tans, but a lot of them were beautiful yellows, and I got some greens and reds too.
I have made a chart of my favorites and posted it on its own page. There is minimal processing information, but I wanted to clearly show the plants that gave the most vivid results. (If you want to know more about how I dyed, you can look at my posts in the Natural Dyeing category, but for real expertise, I recommend Wild Color by Jenny Dean, and Harvesting Color by Rebecca Burgess.)
I ended up with 72 samples, from 17 different plants. I could identify only a few of those plants before I started the dye experiments, but now I’ve learned the names of all but two! A lot of them are just little roadside or pond weeds that look a lot like each other, not found in your ordinary wildflower guidebook – I have been happy to learn to differentiate them. It has also been interesting to note their growing seasons – waterleaf blooms for at least four months, while primrose willow shoots up, blooms, and withers within about two months. I never paid attention to that before.
I wrote about yellow dye from a big shrub that looked like a myrtle, but was a mystery to me. I spotted it at a local nature center, and learned that it is Eastern baccharis, in the composite family. The yellow dyes from it quickly faded to tan, but I’m glad to figure out what it is.
Here are a few of my other conclusions:
- The type of water didn’t seem to matter that much. I tried distilled water, well water, and pond water – any differences in shade were very slight, so I ended up using mostly well water.
- Old vertical window blinds are easy to cut up and use for sample tags.
- I had read that Virginia creeper gave peach dye, but I didn’t get any color from it. A few more plants that I tried with little result were sida (Sida longpipes) and primrose willow (Lugwigia octovalvus). Also, Texas persimmon (Diospyros texana) looked promising with its big juicy fruits, but I only got a medium tan color.
I knit a scarf just to showcase all the colors I got this summer.
I didn’t have a pattern, just thought up different color combinations as I went. But while I was working on it, I realized that it looked like some patterns I have been saving since 1984!
Family Circle magazine took objects from the Winterthur collection, knit by Mary Alsop Wright, and created patterns based on her work. (I may take a hint form them and turn my sampler scarf into a pillow, because I am not much of a knitter, and my edges are terrible!) It’s funny how your mind works – I bet, when I saw the dye results I was getting, my mind pulled up this old article and supplied me with a design idea. And then I thought, “I know what these samples want to be!”
So! Increased knowledge of native plants, a new scarf, and a completion of a project I’ve been wanting to do for 29 years! Great results from just plunking some plant material in a container with water and wool!
And now I have fall plants to try!
Wow — love the colours and what an amazing exercise. It reminds me of a book I have that was put together back in 1986 by 21 weaving guilds + helpers on natural dyeing — they used plants local to their area (province of Ontario, Canada) — different mordants, different parts of the plant, different afterbaths — line drawings to help with plant identification. Quite an amazing compendium (http://burrhousew.blogspot.ca/2011/06/spectrum-dye-plants-of-ontario.html). I’m not sure whether it was their results or a different group’s but around the same time I saw an exhibit with a massive collection of naturally dyed wool and absolutely all the colours went together except that dyed with shrimps shells — the resulting pink was just a little too vibrant to play well with the others!
That looks like a great resource! This summer I started by following the very precise directions from Jenny Dean – and then quickly lapsed into hit-or-miss attempts. But I so appreciate the orderly records that other people do, so that I know what to try! Even though I’m so far from Ontario, I would love to see what plants they used. Thanks for the link.
Also – shrimp shells! I’ve got those! I will have to try that!
Your scarf is absolutely beautiful!
Thanks! Now I’m making a crocheted scarf with the same colors – I’m hoping it will easier to work in the ends on this one!
I like your scarf. Very good idea (and memory)for all the natural dyed wool. Will keep the idea in my mind.
Thanks for that.
Thanks! I stopped by your wonderful blog – I can’t figure out how to follow since I’m not a member of Google Plus, but I love all the information and will visit often!
Oh thanks, too! My English is not very good and I do not trust me to blog in english, but there is a translator at the blog as a little help for people who do not understand German. Hope my pictures give some information 🙂
I speak a little German, but only with a tourist vocabulary – I don’t know all the words for plants and dyes. So I did use the translator at your blog, and everything was pretty clear. But now I can use your blog to teach myself the German vocabulary I would love to know! 🙂
what a wonderful project it has been – I love the idea that you have gone through a systematic process of discovering what colours your local plants give. Very inspirational!
I have been happy to learn that I really don’t need to tend a dyer’s garden – I can get plenty of good results from the “weeds” around me! 🙂 That is good because I neglect gardens when the summer heats up.