Saturday, July 24, 2021

Dye Class

 Penny Cooper and I dyed these Merino wool yarn and cotton strips at the Duluth Folk School natural dyes class.  

I had no idea natural dyes from everyday plants such as buckthorn (an invasive species), hollyhock, and tansy would produce such an array of colors—and so easily! Mostly it was like brewing tea, with a fixative—alum, the same as you use to make pickles. 

What I loved most was the lichen dye, because I love lichen. (I wrote a sonnet about it.)
DO NOT HARVEST LICHEN, the teacher said. 
It is too fragile and too slow-growing a life form to survive much harvesting.

The teacher, who lives locally, salvaged this lichen from the bark of cut-down trees the county was hauling away, for road clearing. "I have sources of information for salvage operations," she said.

It's sad you can't harvest lichen because, most astonishingly to me, this particular lichen soaked in ammonia water for six months made a dye that turned the yarn pinky-purple and the cotton a deeper purple.

Now I want to stew up all the abundant plants (some are invasive species it's almost impossible to kill anyway) and see what color they dye stuff.


Anonymous said...

What fun!

I have a mason jar of black walnut dye in my refrigerator. Black walnuts don't need a fixative. Black walnuts can also be used to make ink.


Linda Sue said...

Friends have been dying for years, and now eco dying is the thing. If i was a weaver or a knitter i would get involve but dye is so easy to buy and I am lazy. Indigo intrigues me still, though.
The blue people of Morocco have found a special place in my memory bank.
I am so pleased to know that your instructor is lichen sensitive . Bless her.

Joanne Noragon said...

When I read about your dye class, I wondered about the lichen. Left on the fallen tree, the lichen would have aided its decomposition. In my estimation, lichen is too fragile to be harvested, ever. I used to spin wool, dye it and sell it, and I never took lichen. It takes too, too, too many years to grow. Perhaps the teacher will reconsider. Some colors are not worth the cost.

Fresca said...

I should have been clearer—the tree was cut and going to be hauled away—The county was clearing a road…

Fresca said...

JOANNE: I just added more info--the teacher was very clear not to take lichen... Still, I'm super glad I got the experience of working with it, through her salvage operations.

River said...

It looks like such fun. I would have thought hollyhocks would have made a pink colour not a grey.

gz said...

Natural dyeing is fun.. haven't done any for ages.
River you can get different colours by using mordants other than alum.