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dyeing with invasive species?

 
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I got a message from a friend that I need to harvest every broom flower I can find.  I cut the branches, strip the flowers (some leaves are okay too), then bag them up and put them in the freezer.  When there's enough, she's going to teach me how to dye with them.  

I don't know what colour broom flowers will give, but I'm guessing a yellow or green.  It's great motivation to reduce the number of broom seeds we will have this summer.  It's a somewhat nasty plant and quick to spread.  

It got me thinking, what other invasive species can we use as dye plants?
 
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I know that Dyer's Woad is considered invasive in most states here in the US.  I've only read about the process but I guess it was a very common source of blue dye before the advent of synthetic dyes.  

All About Woad has a lot of information on using woad.

Some chunky wool dyed with woad:


The Dyer's Woad plant:





 
r ranson
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Queen Anne's Lace is another invasive here.  Gives a warm lemon yellow colour when used with alum mordant.

Queen Anne's Lace

 
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I thought I'd start looking up all my most hated weeds and see if people dye with them, starting with bindweed--which is used as a dye to make a lovely light yellow!


http://foxryde.blogspot.com/2013/06/dyeing-with-bindweed-really.html


http://pink-thatcraftybitch.blogspot.com/2014/11/plant-dyes-bindweed.html

It also makes a blue-grey when an iron pot is used, according to https://www.interweave.com/article/weaving/dyeing-with-bindweed/. Found a picture of it, here



Many bindweed vines, Convulvulus arvensis, were gathered to make a big batch of dye-bath (the same way as last summer, except I used a stainless-steel pot instead of aluminum for the first step of simmering). The strained dye-bath was then divided between two other pots -- one rusty iron, one stainless steel. I immersed identical fibers -- silks, wool, cotton (pre-mordanted in soy milk) and linen -- put the lids on the pots and waited two months.





Looks like one lady makes a business out of selling yarns dyed with weeds. One of which is "rabbit weed" (makes a bright yellow). More info here: http://farmingfortcollins.com/fox-ryde-gardens-makes-useful-plants-shineg/

In Sheron’s dye gardens, you’ll find goldenrod, Japanese indigo, dyer’s broom, coreopsis, agrimony root, madder, rabbit brush, bindweed, Russian thistle, and ragweed. This woman is fearless about picking something, putting it in a pot and seeing what happens. But her fearlessness is tempered with experience – she’s been dyeing since 1972. I was amazed at the colors she achieves, using individual plants or combinations to experiment with color. Bindweed dyes her wool a soft lemon yellow, while rabbit weed creates a more vibrant shade. She uses her own Japanese indigo for blue and green shades.




Left
 
Nicole Alderman
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Another quote, this time about French broom and wooly thistle https://www.rodalesorganiclife.com/home/natural-textile-dyes

Burgess even likes to look for invasive species as sources for color, and she's often used French broom and wooly thistle, invasive plants that are overtaking wildlands and national parks in California.

"Our national parks are all spraying [them] with herbicides from Dow and Monsanto," she says. "One of my responses is to pick that plant and find a use for it." Wooly thistle produces an almost neon yellow, while French broom "makes a great sage green."



Looks lkie creeping buttercup makes a nice dyem too. From http://www.eattheweeds.com/buttercups/

The yellow flowers yield a light fawn dye if alum is used as a mordant, green with chrome as the mordant, and yellow with tin as the mordant. Mordants set the color on the fabric.



I'll see if I can find some pictures.
 
Nicole Alderman
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r ranson wrote:I got a message from a friend that I need to harvest every broom flower I can find.  I cut the branches, strip the flowers (some leaves are okay too), then bag them up and put them in the freezer.  When there's enough, she's going to teach me how to dye with them.  



Is this the broom plant you're referring to?



We have a bunch, if it's this one. Never thought of using it for dyeing, what a cool idea.
 
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I grew up on sheep farms in Ohio and Maine. My Mom became an expert at dying wool. I don't remember what all the various plants she used were now so many years later. But, I Googled it and this is what I found. What a beautiful color palette depending on the mordant used.

Hope this helps. Please report back and let us know your outcomes.

Thanks for sharing this.

Amrita
https://blog.ellistextiles.com/2015/05/14/a-lesson-about-dye-plants-broom/#:~:text=There%20was%20clearly%20%E2%80%9Cno%20contest,I%20get%20from%20weld%20plants.
 
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Interesting post! I never thought about trying to dye with invasive weeds. You made me do a search for some of ours.

The #1 invasive species we have here is Spotted Knapweed. I found this article about it: https://knittingiris.typepad.com/knitting_iris/2006/11/on_death_and_dy.html

We have a lot of mullein, which I don't consider invasive - though we have a lot of it. I found this article on dyeing with mullein: https://whitefishbayfarm.com/a-season-of-color-week-four-mullein/
 
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Purple Loosestrife gave me a medium gray many years ago. My favorite memory of that experience was taking a feed bag to the local park/lake and cutting big bunches of the flowering tops and stuffing them into the sack. I sure did get a LOT of looks from people wondering what in the world I was doing ;>).
 
Nicole Alderman
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Liv Smith wrote:

r ranson wrote:I got a message from a friend that I need to harvest every broom flower I can find.  I cut the branches, strip the flowers (some leaves are okay too), then bag them up and put them in the freezer.  When there's enough, she's going to teach me how to dye with them.  



Is this the broom plant you're referring to?



We have a bunch, if it's this one. Never thought of using it for dyeing, what a cool idea.



I assumed that she was talking about scotch broom (Cytisus scoparius), as it's terribly invasive and takes over large patches of land in my area as well as down in Oregon--I figured it was doing the same thing up in BC, too. I found an article about dying with it here: https://www.snapdragonlife.com/news/blog/scotch-broom-as-a-dye-plant/

BUT!  There's apparently another broom plant that people dye with, called dyer's broom (Genista tinctoria). This person mentions that she bought scotch broom to dye with, but wasn't terribly impressed and then learned that she was supposed to get dyer's broom.  https://blog.ellistextiles.com/2015/05/14/a-lesson-about-dye-plants-broom/

Here's the comparison of what scotch broom dyed vs dyers broom:

scotch broom on left, dyer's broom on right


Cotton with alum, ferrous, titanium. Left is Scotch broom. Center is Dyer's broom, 15 minute extraction. Right is Dyer's broom, 1 hour extraction


It looks like both dye, and make nice yellows, but the dyers broom makes a brighter color.
 
Liv Smith
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Nicole, that makes sense. Glad to hear that our scotch broom can be used for dyeing, even if the results are not spectacular. Now I'm thinking to look for other uses for those flowers. Who knows what I might find...
 
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If any of you in Montana are interested, one of my friends in Eureka is (considered by me) a master dyer with plants and natural sources!  https://linkpop.com/woolywitchofthewest <3
 
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There is a gal who sells natural dyed wools, she has a whole line from nothing but invasive plants. She gets an amazing variety of colors from buckthorn which apparently is an invasive where she is. I'll try to get the info of her name and business name and post it here, it's escaping me at the moment
 
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Rebecca Desnos at rebeccadesnos.com is also a great resource.
 
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