Finally, we've had a stretch of warm, sunny days and my spring flowers are starting to bloom. Local garden centers are awash with marigolds, pansies, geraniums, and herbs.
All of which has made me think about gardening and dyeing. Sunny, windless days are perfect for dyeing. But while I usually use commercial dyes on fabric, I've been thinking about natural dyeing from collected plants.
There's been a movement toward natural yarn and fabric dyeing as an eco-friendly process that avoids using chemicals. But there's an aesthetic benefit as well.
As Tracy Kendall put it in the book she co-authored with Eva Lambert, The Complete Guide to Natural Dyeing, "No matter how good synthetic dyes are, there is always a gentleness and warmth to fabric that has been dyed with natural dyes."
Plus you get the added sensuality of the smell and color of the flowers and plants you collect outdoors, whether you gather them from your back yard or the farmer's market.
While thumbing through The Complete Guide to Natural Dyeing I learned about how natural dyes work differently on yarns and fabrics, and also a few tidbits on how different fabrics take dye that I wasn't already aware of.
But one of the most intriguing things was seeing the beautiful array of colors you can obtain from each plant. It had me dreaming of what I would choose to grow in my "to dye for" garden (preferably right next to my also imaginary outdoor dyeing patio).
Broom: I love shades of yellow-green, and broom yields a lovely green when over-dyed with indigo.
Goldenrod: Produces greenish shades when used with copper or iron.
Aspen: A deep yellow-green.
Blueberry: Deep purple.
Elder berries: Light purple if using fresh berries, beige if using dried.
Common Ivy: Gray-green with dried, crumbled leaves.
Tansy: A bright greenish yellow with alum but a darker moss green with iron.
I'm so happy dyeing season is here, and this book has inspired me to seek out natural dyestuffs and techniques.
If you're interested in learning how to dye fabric the natural way and want to know everything there is to know about it, I suggest you pick up a copy of The Complete Guide to Natural Dyeing.
P.S. Have you ever used dyestuffs from your garden or yard? What did you learn? If you have any tips for me and the other members of the community, please comment below.