Thursday, September 8, 2011

Natural Dye Workshop at the MOP

Last week Penny Coupland and Emily Smith gave a wonderful workshop on natural dyeing at the MOP Garden. Participants brought jars and animal fibers to practice some eco-alchemy. Penny and Emily showed us beautiful samples of naturally dyed wool and cotton. Many of the women at the workshop were into fleece: the wild, woolly women of Vancouver!

Those really bright pieces of raw wool are actually dyed with Kool-aid.

As Penny gave us a tour of the dye plants in the garden a fritillary landed on Sharon's hat. Penny has been experimenting with Natural Dyes for about a year and she highly recommends the book Wild Color by Jenny Dean.

One of the cool things Penny Does is buy grapes that are on sale at the grocery store because they are overripe. These are perfect to use for dyeing. She also says you can have your fruit and dye with it too: use blackberry juice to dye and dry the pulp to make fruit leather. Clever!

Some dye stuffs such as golden rod (which is blooming right now) can be frozen or "canned" as a dye stuff if you don't have time to use it while it's fresh. Preserving the flowers this way will give a brighter color than the dried blossoms.

We all headed into the garden and chose plants for our jars. Then the participants poured water from the kettle into the jars. Some plants will lose color if you get them too hot, whereas others need to be made into a decoction and boiled.

Sharon got good results with these bright pink geranium petals.

Some people tried using Rudbeckia and others the blossoms of the tall coneflowers.

As a general rule of thumb you need about the same weight of plant stuffs as your fibers. We added a small pinch of alum as a co-mordant.

Todd got some good yellow color with the roots of Oregon grape.

Some people made "cocktails" of mixed plants.

Penny also noted that the internet is a great source for info on eco-dyes but you can often find conflicting results due to many wild cards such as ph readings and different varieties of plants.

Penny says you can get a pink color from rose hips and rose petals. Tansy will give a neon yellow color when the pollen is fresh and a duller browner yellow when the flower is older or dried. Emily reminded us to keep all dye containers separate from food containers because many dye stuffs are toxic. Some should be handed with gloves because they contain skin irritants as well.

This should be a really good weekend for solar dyeing because the forecast is for some really hot days. I have a jar of blackberry, a couple of fennel, and one of coreopsis and goldenrod on the go.
Thanks to Penny and Emily for a great workshop! Good luck to everyone with their experiments in eco-alchemy!

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