Dye Garden ~ The Adventure Begins

I am so SO so happy to feel settled in a place where I can have my own garden and as we discuss what our family will grow this year, more and more of our garden space is being allocated (in my mind) to dye plants. I have dyed roving, yarn and fabric before using natural dyes and plant matter in the past. But it has always been from a friend's garden, wild crafted, or even from pre-condensed powders. Now I am dreaming of growing my own dye garden. But first I have some research to do!

Growing and wildcrafting natural plant dye
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I will be learning as I go, and keeping record here of that process, my resources and my inspiration. You can also follow my Pinterest board Dye Life. I save pretty pictures, good articles and other bits I find interesting to that board to reference later.

Some things I knew going into this process:

  • Some plants will yield a gloriously deep color only to fade quickly, even when the fiber has been treated with mordant.

  • When dying with plants that do not naturally contain tannin, a mordant is required to treat the fiber and prepare it to take the color.

  • There are a few different mordants and each will cause the color to set in a slightly different way (for instance, the same plant may dye cotton yarn green with one mordant and brown or yellow with another).

  • For much of this process I can use basic kitchen equipment, but some dyes are toxic and I will need to invest in basic tools only for the use of dying.

  • Some plants must be harvested and used fresh while others can be stored in the freezer or dried for later use.

  • It takes quite a bit of fresh plant matter to dye a small amount of yarn.

  • Some plants, while loved by dyers world wide, are invasive in some areas and cannot be grown in a garden (but CAN be wild crafted if they happen to have snuck into my area).

Thinking through a list like this helped me to realize how much I didn't know and the areas I needed to look into!

  • What plants do I want to grow and wild craft (what colors am I looking for)?

  • Do I know that the color from the plants I am choosing to work with will not fade?

  • While I have used alum powder as a mordant (found in my local grocery store baking isle), I have never used copper, tin or chrome. Where does a person even find these and in what form do they come?!

  • What tools and equipment will I need to collect, both for the growing time and the dying time?

  • How much space will I need for my dye garden and can I convince my husband to build me the beds or do I have to put on my big girl pants and build my own?

  • With such and investment of time and so plant matter required do dye from plants rather than from reduced powders, is it a reasonable venture to dye fiber for more than my own personal use?

  • What plants are growing wild where I live and can I ethically wildcraft them?

  • What plants are invasive here and must not be introduced further by me?

Over the coming months I plan to address these questions in blog posts as I learn more about this process. If you wish to follow along, subscribe to the SDK blog and get notifications when new posts are up.


Happy Making! ~Sönna