Sunday, February 5, 2012

A Garden to Dye For

This year, I have decided to grow my own plants for dyeing my handspun.  Having never dyed before, this will be a fun exercise.  There are so many plants to choose from; although they all seem to produce mostly soft yellows, golden browns and heather greens.  Which are all my favorite colors anyway.

I also want the garden to look pretty, smell nice and not get too over grown, so I need to stay away from the 'weed-type' plants.  Dahlias and Cosmos are a must, as those are my most favorite plants. But Coreopsis and Rudbeckia (Black-eyed Susans); Chamomile and Yarrow are all in the list too.  Hollyhocks are a fav also, but for some reason, I have trouble growing them.  Purple Basil and Marjoram for scent.  Nix the Bronze fennel - it runs rampant and is hard to control, even in a pot!  Indego is out as we can't grow it here in the Northwest; and Tansy, Goldenrod and a few others are so weedy that I can just go picking along the roadsides.

I just bought a book called "A Dyer's Garden" by Rita Buchanan. It's a lovely book filled with all kinds of natural plantings and a page for each plant as to how it dyes up with different fibers and mordants.  She even has garden plans; spacing and yield of each plant; equipment necessary and mordants.

Mordants:  What the heck is a mordant anyway??!!  I still have a lot to learn.  Mordants keep the dyes from fading and help in the dye process.  They are usually metals, but I learned from my spinning workshop with Judith MacKenzie, that the centipede from the Chola plant will give a brilliant raspberry color.  Go figure! A bug!

Since my plants will be ready in the summer, the best place to work my dye pots will be outside.  The little area under the side porch is a great place.  I'll have hubby, David, fix me up some work tables (old doors on saw horses) and a hot plate or two; some drying racks out of PVC piping and I'm good to go.  Nice ventilation, sun, fresh air, water and hose and I'll rig up some fencing so the dogs don't get in the way.  So it's off to Good Will to pick up some old enamel pots, maybe a hot burner or two.

Can't wait to get started.  Just a bit too early to plant, even though we've had wonderful sunny weather these past few days.  I can spend the waiting time, planning out the garden - what flowers, how many.  This will be such fun!

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