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A Garden to Dye For

May 19th, 2014

As a kid I was fascinated with the colors of berries and things in the garden. We often took poke weed berries, smashed them and made ink to write on stones with. Being a crafty kid, learning how to dye fabric, yarn and other things with plants would have been so much fun. A few times I dyed items with regular dyes and a few times I used tea and coffee.
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“You may have already guessed that there are some great perks that come with obtaining dyes from your own plants: they’re non-toxic, biodegradable (compost anyone?) and absolutely renewable.

Using botanical dyes isn’t even remotely close to being a new concept. People from all over the world have been borrowing nature’s colors for thousands of years, using plant- based dyes to adorn clothing, baskets, cave walls, and skin. It’s the ultimate in awesome to realize that when we derive color from the plants in our gardens or landscapes, we’re communing creatively with our ancient ancestors and civilizations.” (excerpt from pages 4 & 5).
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The most fascinating part of this book for me was reading about the studies being done on naturally dyed fabrics and clothing to see if we absorbed any of the medicinal/healthful properties from the herbs through our skin.  Super fascinating and something that has been believed throughout history by many cultures.  It does make sense with the advent of transdermal patches for medication and other things.  What we put on our skin is absorbed, it makes sense that herbal qualities from naturally dyed fabrics would also offer some benefits.
This book includes everything you need, from setting up your craft station to choosing the right plants for the color you want to achieve. Chris geared this book for the gardener and the beginner when it comes to dying so you can learn the basics and then be able to move forward with your own creativity.  I must admit, reading through the lists of flowers and other natural materials and seeing the colors achieved with them makes me want to buy some muslin or yarn and get to work experimenting.
When looking at all the colors achieved from various plants, seeds and other natural material many of them made complete sense. Of course pokeweed was in there, the one I used all the time as a kid. Then I came on the section about using avocado seeds and skins (hey I have a bunch of those) and I was amazed! If you use the skins and seeds you’ll get a salmon or pink for your final color, not at all what I was expecting!
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It’s not just about dying fiber and fabric either, she tells you how to dye Easter eggs and play dough as well as direction for how to make your own watercolor dye paints. I must admit, making my own watercolors sound like a lot of fun, perhaps I can do it with my nieces when we’re back in Ohio later this year.
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She’s doing a great giveaway on her site that includes everything you need to get started including a few silk scarves and wool yarn, head on over and enter if you’re interested.

This book definitely piqued my crafty side and now I can’t wait to try some of the ideas from this book, not sure what I’ll do first, maybe some yarn so I can make a scarf this winter.

Have you ever dyed things with items from you garden? What would you try to make first?

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.