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for a wee bit.

 

 

uses include:
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growing, harvesting and using natural dye plants and other natural dye materials  RSS feed

 
Judith Browning
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Mostly I manage to connect with city gardeners and forage from park annual garden beds for when plants get pulled at end of season, and there are lots of annual plants for dyes to gather from! But I do have some woad growing, and this year we planted madder- I have been warned Madder is very vigorous and will take over, so will have to watch it I guess. In a shady area- under our bamboo and willow crops (for weaving) -we also planted sweet woodruff, again, I understand it can be aggressive, but it is in the same family as madder and apparently the roots will give a pink dye. I am ok if it takes over- it will be a nice change from the running buttercup which so far I can't find much of a purpose for! In my best case scenario- the sweet woodruff will take over from the buttercup, and in trying to weed that I at least am gathering plants for dye. My current favourite dye is the bark from the Paulownia tomentosa tree- known as the empress or princess or foxglove tree. It is invasive in the southern states, but not this far north where we grow it as an ornamental. My husband pollards several each year, and makes musical wooden horns with it. He carves the bark off for curing the wood, and I use the bark for dye. On wools I get rich chestnut browns, soft golden browns or pinks from exhaust baths and deep rosy pinks on my linen crops. I like a versatile dye plant!



Beautiful colors, Sharon.......thanks for posting. and it sounds as though you are growing flax and processing the fiber? I have never tried that but know it is very labor intensive.
I worried a bit about madder spreading also until I started growing it. I started it from seed and every seed germinated and the plants grew well. Then I found out that the deer loved it so I moved it to a fenced area and then needed to move it once again....my patch that should be old enough to dig this next year is pretty small. I hope I can let it just spread for a few years, I can't imagine having too much.
I am not familiar with sweet woodruff, do you have pictures? I like plants that out compete others that I don't want.
We have a friend who makes a few things out of the empress tree wood...good to find out the bark is a dye, I might have him save me some...I love the colors of it in your pictures.

welcome to permies!
 
leila hamaya
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Judith Browning wrote:My two year old madder is blooming....the flowers are really tiny.

the second picture is, I am pretty sure yellow senna...leila H. if you notice this maybe you can ID, it is from your seed, I think


i forgot sending you that, but i know i threw a few extra things in the package i sent. it does look like yellow senna, but i havent ever grown it.

i am so bad at thinking i will plant all this stuff and then only getting to like half of it. like i really wanted to plant some indigo, and other dye plants, to play and experiment, and saved all this flax i harvested for a big project, but then i moved and was in a transition state for a while. plus i have to prioritize the edibles...and maybe bite off more than i can chew just with that sometimes, so i am not as set up to be doing more craft work. working on it though, now that winter is here i should be able to get some solid works done =) and been settling in more and setting things up better.
 
Sharon Kallis
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Leila, Don't beat yourself up for not doing the EVERYTHING!! I fall into that trap every once in a while, and have to remind myself that I am playing the "long game" . I might get half of what I want done in a season- if I am lucky- I ALWAYS bite off more then I can chew in a garden season, and then run around like a crazy woman for 5 months having no life at all other then garden/project related tasks... then settle in in the fall to more fibre stuff! It is hard work being the queen of everything in our little fiefdoms, but eventually it all gets done- or close enough!
I admit to adopting a "good enough"principal now with many things- good enough weeding, good enough house cleaning, good enough dog-parenting, good enough event planning for harvest or garden celebrations- it is just never going to be perfect, and I live with that more comfortably now.
I try and give myself goals like- gather enough dye plants from foraging dog walks for a bunch of winter dye projects. OR- Get enough spinning done that I can take on one big knitting project a year. Keep myself in a steady diet of kale from what the garden produces while I am just barely paying attention. The long game is about realizing that eventually all those little bits of gathering add up to something, those few minutes spinning here and there do produce enough knitting fodder to keep the needles clacking in the cold dark months... There is certainly a seasonal rhythm to all the work isn't there?
And if you can divide and conquer with friends- all the better!
This was my second year of growing flax for linen as a community project, there were more of us involved this year- and many hands do make lighter work for sure- we just talked today about trying as a small group to grow some indigo next season- so knowing I have a team to work with makes it less daunting for the weeding and watering involved- we are going to try some Ramie as well- just cause- might as well see what that is like as a crop, ever tried it?
 
leila hamaya
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Sharon Kallis wrote:Leila, Don't beat yourself up for not doing the EVERYTHING!! I fall into that trap every once in a while, and have to remind myself that I am playing the "long game" . I might get half of what I want done in a season- if I am lucky- I ALWAYS bite off more then I can chew in a garden season, and then run around like a crazy woman for 5 months having no life at all other then garden/project related tasks... then settle in in the fall to more fibre stuff! It is hard work being the queen of everything in our little fiefdoms, but eventually it all gets done- or close enough!
I admit to adopting a "good enough"principal now with many things- good enough weeding, good enough house cleaning, good enough dog-parenting, good enough event planning for harvest or garden celebrations- it is just never going to be perfect, and I live with that more comfortably now.
I try and give myself goals like- gather enough dye plants from foraging dog walks for a bunch of winter dye projects. OR- Get enough spinning done that I can take on one big knitting project a year. Keep myself in a steady diet of kale from what the garden produces while I am just barely paying attention. The long game is about realizing that eventually all those little bits of gathering add up to something, those few minutes spinning here and there do produce enough knitting fodder to keep the needles clacking in the cold dark months... There is certainly a seasonal rhythm to all the work isn't there?
And if you can divide and conquer with friends- all the better!
This was my second year of growing flax for linen as a community project, there were more of us involved this year- and many hands do make lighter work for sure- we just talked today about trying as a small group to grow some indigo next season- so knowing I have a team to work with makes it less daunting for the weeding and watering involved- we are going to try some Ramie as well- just cause- might as well see what that is like as a crop, ever tried it?


yep, thats certainly just the way it goes. plan on twice as much stuff every year, get to half of it, call it good =)

inching along, poco a poco
totally agree... thats the way, "good enough" for me to...is probably not up to many peoples standards! but its ok, its good enough for me.
actually it helps me get to it if i break it down to small chunks, otherwise i may get to overwhelmed and then not do it at all. if i just set up a small chunk at a time, it actually happens, and then maybe even get a little further each mini session, then eventually it pulls together. tho truthfully i do half dozens of half finished projects, some which may never get picked back up again. even thats sort of ok too, perhaps it wasnt to be....

anyway i havent ever grown fiber plants for fabric, and i am not familiar with ramie, though i just googled and it looks interesting. i used to grow plants for paper making fiber, and do hand paper making and book binding. i'd still like to doing it, i have some good ideas id like to flesh out, but i sort of dropped it for a bit and havent really set up space and time to jump back into it.

but i am interested in natural dyes for using with batik, another craft i sometimes do (when i dont have a bazillion other projects at the same time!). but even with that my knowledge of natural dyes is limited, i have mostly used strong commercial dyes, so i am still a learner when it comes to that. still in experimental phase...that is if and when i get around to it. =)

you know eventually someday, i will hope to learn a bit about making cloth, spinning and weaving, it still sort of mystifies me a bit cause i dont know how to do it.
 
Sharon Kallis
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I just did a post called plaid... that describes my process of knitting while still spinning and dying the fibres I will need for the same project. My attention span is lousy for any one thing for too long- but I like figuring out ways I can do multiple steps at once- you sound like you have a similar method or multitasking need in how you work. I like honouring that slightly chaotic process by creating ways to work that reinforce it. Do you knit? a simple pattern is the domino square- that is what I have heard it called- where you decrease at the corner so you are knitting on a diagonal essentially, it is a great way to blend and use small bits of coloured yarn together, and you can keep adding new squares on as you go- I own a few sweaters, vests and a coat all knit from this basic technique! there is likely a youtube video for it... let me know if you don't have any luck finding info for it , but know how to knit and want me to write out basic instruction, I will try if that is helpful.
 
leila hamaya
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that sounds pretty interesting as a method, i think i understand...you make small pieces in various ways and then attach them together to make a complete piece?

i havent knit since i was young, when i was little my grandmother taught me all kinds of old school crafty stuff cause she was cool like that =)
of all the stuff she taught me knitting didnt stick very well, but i used to crochet, and do embroidery and macrame, that was the thing when i was really young, making things with embroidery floss, and doing macrame with hemp and crochet bags and such. that was all a long time ago now but if i picked it up again i would probably be able to remember again.

but does sound like a good method. i think the more experienced you get with any craft the more you can just wing it and work by the seat of your pants (is that a pun ? idk!)...you know at first its good to have a specific method but once you grok it deeply then you can just make something awesome without much planning. maybe thats even the point, to get the point where you can consistently wing it without a set plan and have it reliably come out good.

and it definitely helps to do it all in small sessions and not get too attached to the finishing it quickly, you just cant get ahead of yourself with this kind of slow crafting
 
Sharon Kallis
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Slow Crafting...love it!
yes, if you have crocheted, macrame etc- if you were to try knitting again I bet you would get it this time. I am a leftie, and my grandma tried in vain to teach me knitting and I could never figure it out- as an adult after a year of teaching right-handed people how to weave it was like my brain was rewired- and suddenly I could knit like a rightie no problem! mt friend who taught me was surprised how quickly I picked it up- still can't follow a pattern though!
but- the pattern I do use is the square- and you don't need to knit them all together afterwards, you can cast on to a square and keep going. the square is like this:
Row 1: for a 20 stitch square cast on 41 stitches
this equals 20 stitches one side, 1 corner stitch, 20 stitches the other side
Row 2: after casting on, knit back full length
Row 3: change colour ( if you wish- easiest to do the pattern this way, as then you know when to decrease...) knit 19, knit 3 together (k3t), knit 19
Row 4: knit back
Row 5: repeat row 3, this time you knit 18, then k3t, knit 18
Row 6: knit back
Row 7: knit 17, k3t, k17
Row 7: knit back... see where this is going?
when you get to your last 3 stitches, you just follow through until you k3t and are done!
then, you can cast in on one side 20 stitches, then add another 21, and keep going, do it all again!
I LOVE this pattern- my friend Penny taught it to me- that is who taught me to knit, and it is easy to do while watching tv, traveling, conversing- you don't have that much to pay attention to other then the corner for the decrease so an easy pattern to play with.
hope you enjoy!
IMG_7671.JPG
[Thumbnail for IMG_7671.JPG]
my travel vest I knit while en route to Spain for a residency
 
Judith Browning
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awwww......now I have to go find some knitting needles again You would not believe the number of times I have tried to knit and given up. Once I found what must have been someone's entire collection of needles....all sizes and types and I decided that that was a sign and that this time I would learn to knit and be good at it...........I have since passed them on to my friend the bobbin lace maker and I have bought new some large ones and then another time another size and once I found a free video............I know how to do the basic knit and purl but somehow I can't work up any speed or ease in the process like I have with crochet and I needed it to get to the mindless 'don't have to think about what I am doing' stage.
Beautiful vest!
 
leila hamaya
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^^^ yes i have tried to pick it up a couple more times later in life too, but same. i never got the knack for it. crochet was something i got pretty good at, plus making lace patterns and other stuff with string, like macrame. there was a time i made holders for instruments, like guitar straps out of macrame. and then doing bead weaving and making lace with beaded patterns.
my grandmother (and her mother too) were both lace makers as well, and did a lot of sewing too...so they taught me all that stuff when i was a child. my great grandmother was more inclined to knitting though, she made a blanket for every one of her grandchildren and great grandchildren (which is like a huge group!).

 
Judith Browning
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a few natural dye videos.....



 
Judith Browning
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Link to dying with onion skins
 
Erica Wisner
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Judith Browning wrote:I've got way too much woad seed....can send a bit in an envelope if anyone would like to try it...any larger amounts I would need shipping $$.
I think it is considered an invasive weed in some states so check first...that has never been a problem here...i don't know if i have ever had it volunteer...I always start it carefully from seed in a flat and transplant before the roots get too big. It is one of those seeds that needs to be just pressed into the surface of moist soil and barely covered...I keep the soil moist until it germinates.


It appears it's invasive in my area. I am bummed. I might need to get plant matter (without the seeds) from someone who can grow it without invasive problems.
Or maybe I can find some patches and "aggressively suppress" it at the right time for dying (flowers in bloom means I'm keeping it from setting seed, right?).

If you feel like getting the bad news and being responsible, too, here's its invasive weed profile for the USA (and Canada I think):
http://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=ISTI
Click on the tab for "legal status."

Seems like the Midwest and Missouri/Mississippi valley is the best place to grow it without getting in trouble.

-Erica
 
Judith Browning
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I just ran across this blog article about natural dyes and with some good information about alum http://blog.ellistextiles.com/2016/02/05/the-importance-of-thinking-for-a-natural-dyer/

one quote from the article
Potassium aluminum sulfate bonds with the dyestuff and makes an insoluble lake INSIDE the fiber. Without this insoluble bond, the dye can wash out. This is why we don’t put dye, alum, and fiber in the same pot; inevitably some of the dye will bind with the alum in the bath OUTSIDE the fiber. That would be a waste of our dye and mordant.


I had always mordanted first and then did a separate dye pot but more recently had been following other advice that said it was OK to add alum to the dye pot and do both all at once....after reading this I'm going back to separate procedures.

I'm especially interested in her information about madder as I've (again) started a lot of plants to hopefully harvest the roots in a few years. I find that it grows easily if I can keep it away from the deer and rabbits
http://blog.ellistextiles.com/2016/04/26/digging-deeper-into-a-single-dye-madder-rubia-cordifolia/

 
Cl Robinson
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Jewelweed makes an orangy brownish dye but is also the antidote for poison ivy.  A dual purpose native plant.  I am loving this thread, my daughter is into dying tanned hides, I am going to introduce her to this thread, thanks!
 
Judith Browning
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I think I've linked to this site before in this thread.  This recent post is her notes from a book about madder...   http://www.naturesrainbow.co.uk/2017/03/madder-red-notes-from-the-history-of-growing-madder-from-robert-chenciner/  ;

She has a lot of information on growing and harvesting other dye plants also.

here's the link for buying the book   https://www.amazon.com/Madder-Red-History-Luxury-Caucasus/dp/0700712593




 
jared strand
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My wife is planning on putting together a dyeing garden this year, larger and in a different location than she started last year.  She would like it to be somewhat decorative as well, rather than uniform rows or blocks, though not totally scattering each variety.
Are there any common dyeing plants that DO NOT do well together? 
We will not be planting trees in this space, any trees used for dyeing will do double duty as shade/forage and/or nitrogen fixing depending on species. And we do NOT plan on bringing in anything that will spread invasively  and take over or be a pest plant- nettles and madder are readily available in the wild, no need to plant them.
 
Katherine Oconnor
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What was planted last year? Dye for cloth specifically? I ask because I do soaps and the caustic nature of lye makes a lot of cloth dye colors mute (yellow from onion peels, etc.). I'm going to try growing Amaranth this year.
 
jared strand
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Plants for dyeing wool fiber.  Last year was a lot of marigolds, some viola/Johnny jump-ups, and other common garden flowers. This year will be indigo, woad, weld, coreopsis, hopi sunflower, zinnia, black hollyhock, etc.
 
jared strand
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Also backing the Slow Color Kickstarter, dyeing with natural dyes local to the Midwest according to the season of availability-
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/tinderboxpoetry/slow-color-a-practical-guide-to-natural-dyeing-in
 
Brian Gable
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Here in Herefordshire in the UK there are a lot of Damson trees in the hedgerows as they were the main ingredient of the dark dyes used in the wool cloth worn by most people before the advent of the modern dyes that we have today, right up until the late 1950's most clothing was pretty drab, especially for men, there are still folk using plant dyes for craft clothing and soft furnishings.
 
r ranson
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I'm planning my dye garden now.  I have coreopsis, woad, bronze fennel, and I'm wondering what else I shall grow.

I'm also keen to find local sources of mordants - for both wool and linen yarn.  This year, I'm wanting to make 100% homegrown clothing but one of the things I've come to realise is that I don't like wearing light coloured cloth.  However, I love naturally dyed cloth.  So it's time to learn to dye.  Being a miserly so-and-so, I don't want to buy mordant.  Any thoughts on something I can find or grow at home?

The space I have for my dye beds is VERY well drained and will get hardly any rain in the summer.  Maybe one or two showers over 6 months - on a wet year.  But it does get a heavy dew.  It's on the west side of the ridge that we terraced and I'm devoting an entire ledge to dye plants of which I hope to plant half this year and half is currently a manure pile which will be ready to spread next year spring.  I'm thinking to make semi-permanent beds with chipper mulch paths.  Last year I grew fava beans in that spot.  What dye plants might grow well here?
 
r ranson
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My local seed company has a few dye plants.  Their seeds are usually the most vigorous growers in my garden (except the ones I've saved myself).  So I thought I would give these a try.

Coreopsis Tinctoria
Agrimony (Agrimonia Eupatoria)
Common Mullein (Verbascum thaspus)
Madder (Rubia tinctorum)

Hope they don't mind too much sun.

They also have this little article on dyeing with coreopsis.  Some snippits.

...24 plants give enough flowers to dye one pound of wool or silk ...

..Preparing Dye Bath
amount of flowers should be pound for pound with amount of yarn
soak the flowers in hot water for 24 hours
simmer for 1 hour, cool
strain out the flowers

Dye the Yarn
add the wet, mordanted wool to the dye bath, add more water if necessary. Yarn should be covered with water. Bring to simmer.
simmer for 1 hour, let yarn cool in the dye bath
rinse and SURPRISE! you are never sure of exactly what colour you will get, but it will be some lovely yellow....


 
Judith Browning
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I think cosmos would do well in your dye garden.  I grew a variety called 'Bright Lights' for a wonderful deep orange and my dye book lists two others, 'Diablo' and 'Sunny Red' (all are Cosmos sulphureus) as good sources also.  I found that the deer, sometimes, would eat them though and folks coming to our counties 'studio tour' would wonder if 'they' were the pot plants that we must have moved so far back in the woods to grow.....anyway, they produce a good permanent color very close the the orange of the flower.  I did use alum and whole dried blooms.  I picked a few every day and the only way to get enough at one time was to dry them.  Seems I've read that they, in particular have more color dried.   I didn't water them, so during a rainy year they would grow to eight feet tall and in a summer with less rainfall only grow to a foot or so but still survive...not so many blooms though.
The blooms would vary in color like in this picture....



I know that a 'painted coreopsis' would do well in a dry place.  Here they sometimes take over a pasture.  I gathered wild seeds and tried to start a patch near my dye garden...we moved before it established successfully.

..and then there's sumac, here anyway, survives with no intervention on my part...just one of many useful plants that 'show up'.  It is disappointing as a dye by itself but useful for it's tannins.......Rita Buchanan says in her book 'A Weaver's Garden'......

"The leaves, twigs and berries contain tannins; dried leaves have  concentrations as high as ten to twenty five percent.  Some dyers add a handful of sumac leaves to dyebaths of other plants to improve the fastness of the color when dyeing wool.  Sumac tannins are expecially useful as mordants in the alum/tannic-alum sequence outlined for cotton, flax and other plant fibers."



 
Daniel Schneider
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Hej R!
Some types of club moss (lycopodiceae) are aluminum accumulators and can be used to make an alum mordant. I haven't tried it myself yet, but here's a blog entry by Jenny Dean, where she writes about doing it    http://www.jennydean.co.uk/index.php/anglo-saxon-mordants/

For linen, I think your best bet will be various tannin-rich plants, or iron. Unfortunately, both of these will tend to darken your colours, and shift them brownward, and you want to be *very* sparing with iron mordants- if you use too much, it'll damage your fabric
 
r ranson
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Here's my baby dye garden.  I hope to grow enough to share with others and have a great big dye party in the fall.  However, my dye garden won't get any water except for what nature provides.  I'm curious what can survive.

The indigo will go in the greenhouse with the cotton and the peppers. 

This year, I'm trying my indoor seed starting like my Great Grandfather did where we scatter a pinch of seeds all together in a pot.  When the seeds have their first true leaves, we prick out the healthiest plants and give each their own pot.  I didn't think it would be good to describe the roots so much, but it's working better than I expected.  I think I'm going to try this method again in the future.
baby-dye-garden.JPG
[Thumbnail for baby-dye-garden.JPG]
woad-seedling.JPG
[Thumbnail for woad-seedling.JPG]
 
Sharon Kallis
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I also have read about staghorn sumac being a mordant for linen- as a part of the stepped process... I did try some experiments last year with disappointing results alas. Huechera( commonly known as alum root) is also a bioaccumulator and should be good for roots. As a mordant, I planted about 40 last year that were donated but only did a small trial and again was disappointed with my results. It makes sense that an area with more alum to be pulled up by the roots will make for a better start.  We also have a teabush growing in our garden and i have used this for a tannin boost... I soak the leaves in water for a few days , simmer them, strain and soak fibres in water and that works for my tannin step without adding the same deep beige that actual tea woyld for dulling bright colours.
Certainly is much easier to sub out the mined minerals for protein fibres then for cellulose.
Again, very happy to pop back to this thread and get new ideas! Love the madder link and will earth up my madder like potatoes this year.
 
Sharon Kallis
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I just went to an artists talk yesterday and am very inspired by this womans work! Anna Haywood-Jones has done a beautiful job of rigidly weaving samplers of 5 different fibres- linen, cotton, rayon, silk and wool each prepped for the dye bath in 3 ways~ no mordant, alum and ferrous. She did her warp and weft in repeating patterns with all of these and then pipped the sampler in the dye bath... The project was done in Nova Scotia, travelling around the province and noting the location plant species and date. The website is a fantastic resource and very inspiring! Google Anna Haywood-Jones tinctoria cartographies.
 
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Sharon Kallis wrote:I just went to an artists talk yesterday and am very inspired by this womans work! Anna Haywood-Jones has done a beautiful job of rigidly weaving samplers of 5 different fibres- linen, cotton, rayon, silk and wool each prepped for the dye bath in 3 ways~ no mordant, alum and ferrous. She did her warp and weft in repeating patterns with all of these and then pipped the sampler in the dye bath... The project was done in Nova Scotia, travelling around the province and noting the location plant species and date. The website is a fantastic resource and very inspiring! Google Anna Haywood-Jones tinctoria cartographies.


I love this woman's work...hadn't seen it before so thank you very much!  Anna Heywood-Jones     
...snitching just one picture to post here in reference to tinctorial cartographies The page has many dye plants all shown with the results as in the picture below....just beautiful.

 
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Thank you Judith for posting image and linking site- both things beyond my capacity from my phone...😕
 
r ranson
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What stage do I harvest sheep sorrel for dye?  What parts do I gather?  Does it need a mordant?
 
r ranson
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I can't remember, have we talked about dyeing with coffee on cotton fabric yet?  I was thinking of going down to my local coffee shop and asking for some spent grounds.  Will it make a dark brown colour?
 
Andrew Barney
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I have an interest in using my Purple Corn water from the purple Indian Corn that i grow for dying. But the purple color it produces are anthocyanins, a water soluble compound so i'm not sure what kind of mordant would work with it. It's the same as what is in beets or red cabbage. I tried using it to dye some wood of a small flute i was making. It sort of worked, sort of didn't.





 
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My dye garden in the heat of the summer.  It's received no water from me, only the dew each night.  Last rain was early May. 

(and yes, you saw right, I used mulch)
IMG_0480.JPG
[Thumbnail for IMG_0480.JPG]
 
Judith Browning
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I love finding businesses that are using natural dyes...this is a very informative site and beautiful beautiful work...
Spindrift Crafts
Working and living in Shetland brings inspiration for creativity. The sea and landscape provide an ever changing palette of colour. Walking, watching and being in the Isles means existing close to nature in all her elemental aspects. The plants that survive the diverse climate never cease to amaze. Discovering the colours that they can dye wool feels magical. The sheep that live here are hardy animals and grow thick fleece that spins, felts and dyes well.


 
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Lovely work...she uses natural dyes and handspun yarns on many of these tapestries.

D.Y. Begay


Edge of Dawn
Dimensions:  43 ½” h x 29 ½” w
Edge of Dawn is entirely woven with natural color yarn and hand dyed yarn.
 
Maybe he went home and went to bed. And took this tiny ad with him:
Permaculture Playing Cards by Paul Wheaton and Alexander Ojeda
https://permies.com/wiki/57503/digital-market/digital-market/Permaculture-Playing-Cards-Paul-Wheaton
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