This year, mixed in with my vegetables, I'm planting flowers that can be used for dyeing yarn. After receiving Wild Color by Jenny Dean for Christmas I became excited about expanding my yarn dyeing repertoire with natural materials. Last month my wonderful group of knitting friends helped me celebrate my birthday with a gift of natural dyeing supplies from A Verb for Keeping Warm, including the book A Dyer's Garden by Rita Buchanan:
|Thank you Angie, Karen, Lisa, Amber, and Betsy!|
The books have been extremely helpful while I've been learning about natural dyeing. Wild Color includes a history of natural dyeing, and detailed instructions outlining supplies and methods for natural dyeing using a variety of materials which can be gathered, grown, and/or purchased. A Dyer's Garden also has a wealth of information on natural dyeing, but my favorite parts of the book are the chapters which provide information on actual garden plans. The author includes samples of garden plans based on desired colors, required amounts of garden space for each plant, and the numbers of plants needed to dye 4oz. of wool.
I am fortunate to have a big garden space with good soil, but given that I usually fill it up with veggies, the information in A Dyer's Garden about the efficacy of each plant is invaluable. I've used the book to help me decide how much vegetable garden space I want to give up for my dye plants. I've planted seeds based on the hopes of experimenting with a variety of color:
BLUE - Dyer's Knotweed (Japanese Indigo), and Woad
YELLOW, TAN, ORANGE, and GOLD - Dahlias, Marigolds, Yarrow, and Zinnias
GREEN, and PURPLE - Hibiscus, Hollyhocks, and Purple Basil
I pride myself on my gardening skills but I've had trouble with one plant in particular. I now have seedlings of all the plants listed above, including some that are known to be difficult to germinate:
However, did you notice that a primary color is missing from my list above? Here is my Madder plant, which I ordered in hopes of producing red dye:
The instructions for growing Madder for red dye go something like this:
Build a raised bed in order to contain the roots of the Madder plant. Plant a seedling and allow it to grow for two years, or until it spreads to fill a 4 sq. ft. space. Dig up the roots, and wash them thoroughly. Chop up the roots and spread them on a mesh rack until they are completely dry and shriveled.
After reading these instructions, and realizing that this jar from my birthday package . . .
. . . could be used to achieve the same results, the Madder plant just didn't seem to do as well as the other seedlings. Hmm, I may have forgotten to water it.
For work-in-progress posts with actual knitting content, please check out WIP Wednesday #36 at Tami's Amis!