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What's your favorite plant to grow for dye?

 
pollinator
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I'd love to try making my own fabric one day... but that project seems a bit out of my league for right now so I thought maybe I could start with growing my own natural dye.

So, I want to hear it... what's your favorite thing to grow for dye?
What part of the plant are you using and what color does it give? (any pics of your own work...?)

I need more flowers for my garden so I figured planting some that would make good dyes would be smart!
 
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Rebecca Blake wrote:I'd love to try making my own fabric one day... but that project seems a bit out of my league for right now so I thought maybe I could start with growing my own natural dye.

So, I want to hear it... what's your favorite thing to grow for dye?
What part of the plant are you using and what color does it give? (any pics of your own work...?)

I need more flowers for my garden so I figured planting some that would make good dyes would be smart!


Natural dyes really interest me with the idea of dyeing my naturally grown linen. The cochineal beetle is popular over here and that's gonna be my first call. It is all over cactus' and available all along the road side.
It would also help clean up an unsightly mess.
 
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I grow and gather a lot of dye plants and materials but I think my all time favorite is a variety of cosmos called 'Bright Lights'.  
The flowers can be used either fresh or dried and make a beautiful orange on wool.  I pick them weekly over the summer and they bloom prolifically on into fall.

They attract so many butterflies and other pollinators...that alone would be a great reason to grow them.  The plants are quite tall and can be bushy.






not sure I've attached the photos I intended...a crocheted wool blanket with all natural dyes...the cosmos flower dye being the orange one.  
and the second image should be our garden.  The cosmos are the orange and yellow flowers, smaller than the deeper orange/red Mexican sunflowers.

and they make prolific seed that is easy to save and share....I would be happy to send a small handful to anyone in the states who would like to try them?

 
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Many years ago, I collected various wild plants to make different dyes. Goldenrod gave a greenish yellow hue if I remember correctly. I think I probably collected ten or so common species that grow in fields and along roadsides. Another was curly dock.
 
Nik Brindley
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Judith Browning wrote:I grow and gather a lot of dye plants and materials but I think my all time favorite is a variety of cosmos called 'Bright Lights'.  
The flowers can be used either fresh or dried and make a beautiful orange on wool.  I pick them weekly over the summer and they bloom prolifically on into fall.

They attract so many butterflies and other pollinators...that alone would be a great reason to grow them.  The plants are quite tall and can be bushy.






not sure I've attached the photos I intended...a crocheted wool blanket with all natural dyes...the cosmos flower dye being the orange one.  
and the second image should be our garden.  The cosmos are the orange and yellow flowers, smaller than the deeper orange/red Mexican sunflowers.

and they make prolific seed that is easy to save and share....I would be happy to send a small handful to anyone in the states who would like to try them?


What a beautiful blanket you've made, Judith and your garden looks amazing. You know I have quite a few cosmos seeds, not sure of the colours as they've been sent by a friend. I think they're mainly pink. But I'm gonna get planting them! I'm in Spain so they'll grow in no time. Thanks for the information and photos.


 
Judith Browning
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Thank you Nik!
Cosmos are wonderful flowers although I think not all will produce a dye.  
I've only used the 'bright lights' variety that are a mix of yellows and oranges.

If purchasing seed look for 'cosmos sulphureus' as the Latin name.

I used to grow the pink ones...they are beautiful and pollinators love them also.

It will be fun to see what comes up in your saved seed mix

 
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Black walnut hulls - we eat the nuts and the hulls or husks are a by-product. Aftermordanting with an iron pot will give a "black" color. Onion skins are easy to collect in the kitchen after most every meal. A very strong dye bath can give a coppery orange and an after mordant in an iron pot will give an avocado green. Rhubarb roots can be dug when the plant gets divided every 3 or so years. They give a brassy gold. All of these are readily available and "leftovers" from the food chain.
 
Rebecca Blake
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Larisa Walk wrote:Black walnut hulls - we eat the nuts and the hulls or husks are a by-product. Aftermordanting with an iron pot will give a "black" color. Onion skins are easy to collect in the kitchen after most every meal. A very strong dye bath can give a coppery orange and an after mordant in an iron pot will give an avocado green. Rhubarb roots can be dug when the plant gets divided every 3 or so years. They give a brassy gold. All of these are readily available and "leftovers" from the food chain.



I’m such a beginner I had no idea what aftermordant was! The onion skins do sound like an easy first go at it. And I love coppery orange so I guess now I need to look up how to do it thank you!
 
Rebecca Blake
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Judith Browning wrote:I grow and gather a lot of dye plants and materials but I think my all time favorite is a variety of cosmos called 'Bright Lights'.  
The flowers can be used either fresh or dried and make a beautiful orange on wool.  I pick them weekly over the summer and they bloom prolifically on into fall.

They attract so many butterflies and other pollinators...that alone would be a great reason to grow them.  The plants are quite tall and can be bushy.






not sure I've attached the photos I intended...a crocheted wool blanket with all natural dyes...the cosmos flower dye being the orange one.  
and the second image should be our garden.  The cosmos are the orange and yellow flowers, smaller than the deeper orange/red Mexican sunflowers.

and they make prolific seed that is easy to save and share....I would be happy to send a small handful to anyone in the states who would like to try them?



Those yarn colors and flowers are amazing! Do those flowers do okay in a neglected environment? We just purchased land and I’d love to put some out there while we build our home... but I can’t really go out and water regularly.

I also need to fix up some landscaping on the current home for resale so maybe I should put some in the garden here
 
Judith Browning
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Rebecca,
Cosmos are pretty forgiving...will survive a drought and poor dirt although they are at their best in some good garden soil.  I like to get a little longer bloom by planting them in flats a early and then setting out plants.  They do just fine when you sow the seeds in the spring or just let them volunteer year to year.  I didn't water this area of the garden over the summer.  We did have some mulch down though.

The colors in my blanket, besides the orange that is from the cosmos flowers are derived from: pale yellow (weld); two shades of deeper yellow (onion skins, as Larisa mentioned); gold (osage orange wood shavings) and the pinkish color was one where I changed the ph in the final bath...I think it was onion skins? I'm not good at keeping records.


 
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Many years ago, I experimented with onion skins. It make a brown color on t-shirt knit fabric. It was fun.
 
Larisa Walk
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Rebecca Blake wrote:I’m such a beginner I had no idea what aftermordant was! The onion skins do sound like an easy first go at it. And I love coppery orange so I guess now I need to look up how to do it thank you!



A few years ago I gave a natural dye demo at a fiber farm tour. I only had 2 dye pots along for the day but ended up with 8 colors. I started off by making 8 small sample skeins for the demo. Half of these were mordanted in Alum before dyeing and marked by a knot at the end of the strand (I used a 30 day cold water soak in the mordant water). Half were left unmordanted. The dye baths were precooked and I put 2 skeins of wetted unmordanted and 2 skeins of alum mordanted wool in each dye pot a couple of days ahead of time and left them to soak. The day before the event I transferred the dye to gallon glass jars and placed 1 skein of unmordanted and 1 skein of alum mordanted from each dye bath and put them in another gallon glass jar along with some rusty hardware and some of the dye bath. So now I had 4 jars for the demo. I left them sitting in the sun until pulling out the skeins while giving my talk. Each jar had 2 slightly different colors from the alum versus no alum.  The colors were slightly more intense with the mordant, but I think the alum would over time hold up better than no mordant and be even more intense in the long run. The biggest color change was in the rusty iron hardware jars which originally were the same as the skeins left in the 2 original dye baths. I do most of my dyeing in the summer when I can set up jars in the sun to cook like sun tea and often leave wool in there for days if not weeks. Another trick I learned in reading some of India Flint's work is that "slow" dyeing also includes letting the fiber "age" after it comes from the dye bath. I no longer rinse it right away but let it dry and put it aside. Let it age like fine wine and rinse it before use even if that's months or years from when it was dyed.
 
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Judith Browning wrote:I grow and gather a lot of dye plants and materials but I think my all time favorite is a variety of cosmos called 'Bright Lights'.  
The flowers can be used either fresh or dried and make a beautiful orange on wool.  I pick them weekly over the summer and they bloom prolifically on into fall.



Hey, I grow my own calendula, but I use it in tea and in an all purpose healing ointment that I've been making for decades from a recipe I created after teaching myself some herbal healing from reading Jeanne Rose's herbal books as a teenager! Since I'm now looking towards creating my own fibers, knowing that calendula is also a great dye plant for orange colors means I'll need to increase my typical crop size to include dye supplies!

I know from some of my research into dying that there are different mordants, and they all create different shades using the same dye plant. Guess I'll have to create a document for myself to have a cheat sheet for all this info!!
 
Judith Browning
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Cindy Haskin wrote:

Judith Browning wrote:I grow and gather a lot of dye plants and materials but I think my all time favorite is a variety of cosmos called 'Bright Lights'.  
The flowers can be used either fresh or dried and make a beautiful orange on wool.  I pick them weekly over the summer and they bloom prolifically on into fall.



Hey, I grow my own calendula, but I use it in tea and in an all purpose healing ointment that I've been making for decades from a recipe I created after teaching myself some herbal healing from reading Jeanne Rose's herbal books as a teenager! Since I'm now looking towards creating my own fibers, knowing that calendula is also a great dye plant for orange colors means I'll need to increase my typical crop size to include dye supplies!

I know from some of my research into dying that there are different mordants, and they all create different shades using the same dye plant. Guess I'll have to create a document for myself to have a cheat sheet for all this info!!



hi Cindy,
Calendula is a wonderful plant...I too grow it for medicinal uses.  I haven't tried dyeing with it but I know the oils turn a beautiful orange color.
Cosmos are even easier to grow than calendula!
 
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Mountain aider variety of dye plant is one of my favorite ever. This flower has combination of red, brown and orange color. when there are lots of flowers on this plant it attracts in a different way.
 
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Woad! It is easy to grow, and its toxins make it a death trap for cabbage butterflies, who lay tons of eggs on it and the caterpillars make only a few holes, then die.

Been making some woad balls. Waiting until I have enough to try dying something!
IMG_1257.JPG
Woad balls
Woad balls
 
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What does woad look like when growing? I have a piece of property that has plants my plan ID app says are woad, but I’m skeptical.
 
M Broussard
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Shawn Foster wrote:What does woad look like when growing? I have a piece of property that has plants my plan ID app says are woad, but I’m skeptical.



It looks kind of like borecole (kale). I've just taken a photo of my plants for you--look at their pristine leaves with only a few nibbles in them (while other plants are being mown down by the abundant slugs and snails)!
IMG_1856.JPG
[Thumbnail for IMG_1856.JPG]
 
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Woad looks very very similar to evening primrose in its pre flowering stage.

I grow woad and madder and lady's thumb (Persicaria maculosa) which makes a colorfast golden yellow. I collect Queen Anne's lace and walnuts from local parks.

Any plant will make a color! Sometimes it's only a light yellow but its fun to experiment! One of the most interesting colors I've gotten is a peach from a lichen growing in my backyard.
 
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i am currently babying some Japanese indigo seedlings I got from a community garden in Baltimore (purchased, not actually stolen from a planting, for once!)
I've never grown indigo and I'm not really a dyer, but I love the shade and so my hopes are high. So far they are sprouted and coming along, to be planted out in the next few weeks.
 
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Woad is an interesting plant.  The blue dye made from woad is ancient - think Mel Gibson's face in "Braveheart"!  Here in Colorado, it's on the noxious plant list A, though it is not common, merely "of concern".  It's a mustard (Brassicacae) and I would love to grow it, but try to stay away from the invasives!  Also, someone said cosmos was easier to grow than calendula, but I have the opposite experience.  Especially sulfur cosmos, which is the dye-producing variety - that one is harder to grow for me than the more common red/white/pink variety.  Too bad those don't make dye!  Calendula, on the other hand, I grew once and now have it everywhere.  A prolific seed setter.  

Anyway, very interesting discussion.  I'm a knitter but don't spin or dye (yet).  Love this group and have been reading it for months, though this is my first post.  

 
pollinator
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In one of my weaving groups on Facebook a poster has been showing her beautiful marigold dyed items.  There were various different shades of yellows and some greens...   I always have marigolds now I want to grow enough to try a dye pot...
 
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I love this topic but it's not something I have jumped into yet. But this year I grew stuff to make food coloring. I grew safflower for orange and Hopi black sunflowers. I tried to grow butterfly pea for blue and pink but my seeds didn't germinate. 😢 I know food coloring doesn't work the same way as dying fabric but it's my way of playing with color at the moment.

I know so many of the plants on my land for their edible and medicinal properties but I should try to learn their properties for dying fiber. A fun research project for me! 😊

20210822_195219.jpg
This picture has nothing to do with dye but I thought it would be fun to share with you color lovers! This is my daughter's icecap cake I made out of fruits and veggies- no added food coloring.
This picture has nothing to do with dye but I thought it would be fun to share with you color lovers! This is my daughter's icecap cake I made out of fruits and veggies- no added food coloring.
 
M Broussard
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C Lundquist wrote:Woad looks very very similar to evening primrose in its pre flowering stage.

I grow woad and madder and lady's thumb (Persicaria maculosa) which makes a colorfast golden yellow. I collect Queen Anne's lace and walnuts from local parks.

Any plant will make a color! Sometimes it's only a light yellow but its fun to experiment! One of the most interesting colors I've gotten is a peach from a lichen growing in my backyard.



I never realised the correspondence! Woad is huge compared to evening primrose, even at the rosette stage, but they do look pretty similar. My woad has started flowering now, so it's very obviously woad (and also truly massive! Look at it!).

Where do you grow madder? I got my hands on some seeds (which will hopefully germinate soon), but am not sure what kind of soil/position to give it--I don't want to get it wrong as it's a big commitment to plant it anywhere as it takes so long to make a big enough root.
IMG_2071.JPG
Woad so tall it couldn't bear its own weight anymore
Woad so tall it couldn't bear its own weight anymore
 
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Madder is quickly becoming my favourite dye plant.  Easy to grow in my local conditions, doesn't mind 6 months of summer with zero water or being flooded in the winter.

And I can get so many colours from one dye pot.  

First harvest of some 3-year-old plants



 
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Judith Browning wrote:I grow and gather a lot of dye plants and materials but I think my all time favorite is a variety of cosmos called 'Bright Lights'.  
The flowers can be used either fresh or dried and make a beautiful orange on wool.  I pick them weekly over the summer and they bloom prolifically on into fall.

They attract so many butterflies and other pollinators...that alone would be a great reason to grow them.  The plants are quite tall and can be bushy.






not sure I've attached the photos I intended...a crocheted wool blanket with all natural dyes...the cosmos flower dye being the orange one.  
and the second image should be our garden.  The cosmos are the orange and yellow flowers, smaller than the deeper orange/red Mexican sunflowers.

and they make prolific seed that is easy to save and share....I would be happy to send a small handful to anyone in the states who would like to try them?



That blanket is AMAZING!! I didn't even know you could dye things with cosmos flowers. What is your method? (Also, how do you actually grow yours? I can't even seem to get my seeds to germinate)
 
Judith Browning
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nellie stella wrote:

Judith Browning wrote:I grow and gather a lot of dye plants and materials but I think my all time favorite is a variety of cosmos called 'Bright Lights'.  
The flowers can be used either fresh or dried and make a beautiful orange on wool.  I pick them weekly over the summer and they bloom prolifically on into fall.

They attract so many butterflies and other pollinators...that alone would be a great reason to grow them.  The plants are quite tall and can be bushy.






not sure I've attached the photos I intended...a crocheted wool blanket with all natural dyes...the cosmos flower dye being the orange one.  
and the second image should be our garden.  The cosmos are the orange and yellow flowers, smaller than the deeper orange/red Mexican sunflowers.

and they make prolific seed that is easy to save and share....I would be happy to send a small handful to anyone in the states who would like to try them?



That blanket is AMAZING!! I didn't even know you could dye things with cosmos flowers. What is your method? (Also, how do you actually grow yours? I can't even seem to get my seeds to germinate)



As far as I know there are only a few varieties of cosmos that produce an intense color...this one is called Bright Lights.

When I was using them for dye I would pick the oldest flowers almost every day and dry them on a tray.  Later when I had a lot and the weather was cooler soak some (or a lot) of them for a day or so then barely simmer for awhile...hours? Strain when cool and add wetted wool...slowly bring up to a bare simmer for another 'while'...checking the color of the wool.  Leave wool in the vat until cool...rinse and dry or dry and rinse later....did I mention there are many ways to do this? And so many variables

This year I scattered seeds all over the gardens and let them show up when they wanted to.  Other years I usually started the seeds in flats where I can moniter the moisture and have better germination and earlier blooms.
 
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I don't have a favourite plant yet, but I am happy to read this thread for inspiration.

It's seed buying season,  so I'm making a wish list of what dye plants I can fit in my garden.   Coreopsis for sure.  I'm considering holly hocks but they take two years.

Kind of lost on what else I want to grow.  I don't like yellow all that much.

Although I have some madder I moved last year.   Should be able to get some harvest from that.
 
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Nettles.

Dye with some, eat the rest. Wear gloves to cut them. Some time after cutting they stop stinging.

You can get a lovely soft green dye. I have only used them on wool. No mordant, or vinegar or citric acid.  
 
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While I hear that it is very difficult to grow, Indigo sounds very interesting to me.  I imagine that it would be beautiful.

Eric
 
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