Plant Magic in the Dye Garden
Exploring the magic of dye gardens in Spring
Have you ever thought about extracting color from plants? If so, you might have even considered cultivating your own dye garden. While a vegetable or herb garden's purpose is to produce food, a dye garden's harvest provides botanical ingredients used for dyeing in natural dye baths to produce color on fiber. A bonus is that many dye plants are visually appealing and provide food for pollinators.
Unsure where to begin or need some inspiration? Textile artist, Theresa Robinett became intrigued with botanical dyes when she ordered a small booklet from a government printing office in the late sixties. Fast forward to this year her garden will consist of marigolds, black knight scabiosa, safflower, weld, cosmos, alkanet and amaranth.
Theresa recommends Coreopsis, also known as Ticksee, as a "must have" for any dye garden. It's pretty self sufficient and a plant in a large pot will produce enough flowers for several dye pots making it ideal for even container gardens. She recommends picking the blossoms often as the plant will produce new ones and the flowers make pollinators very happy! The color obtained from the blossoms "range from a golden yellow to a rich rust and shades in between. Take the time to slowly bring these colors to life on a low flame and they will not disappoint."
Her favorite fabrics to work with are wool and silk, since they react so well to most colors and are often used in her spinning/ knitting/ weaving practice. When she had extra time last summer to explore her fabric stash where she found silk and cotton fabrics that took very nicely to dye and she plans on continuing her explorations with these materials. We can't wait to see more of Theresa's garden as it emerges this Spring!
Textile artist and new mom, Lizzie Muir, loves growing sulfur cosmos, hopi sunflowers and Japanese indigo in her dye garden. Her favorite plant to grow is the hopi sunflowers, their variations and size always surprise her. They can have one large bloom or several smaller flowers branching out in bunches. "The dye from the seeds is fugitive but very fun to play with and I especially like to use it as an ink. Playing with the PH shifts is a meditative experience for me."
She prefers to take a laid back approach to the garden and 'chucks the seeds in the ground and hope for the best". She does like planting seeds in different areas of the garden and seeing how they fare. When she began growing indigo, she fermented, reduced, and dehydrated her harvest but found that she enjoys the gorgeous results of dyeing with fresh leaf indigo. Now she looks forward to it every summer!
Lizzie finds cosmos to be very reliable, easy to grow and an excellent source of color. They make lovely hapazome impressions and create an incredible dye bath. She also loves that it will grow through the winter here in SoCal and is a pollinator magnet.
Are you considering planting a dye garden this year? The ideal time to start planting in the US is April or May depending on which zone you are in. The USDA Hardiness Map is a good resource when determining when plants should be put in the ground. In you are in another country, make sure to plant after the last frost and check the length of your growing season when planning out your garden.
We can't wait to see what our community decides to grow and share the gardens in bloom!
Let me know what you'll be growing in the comments.
Find out about our seed giveaway here>>>
Join our upcoming Natural Dye & Shibori workshop here>>>
Follow their beautiful work on Instagram at Theresa Robinett and Lizzie Muir
HI, I'M HILARY.
This is where I share inspiration for a hand-crafted lifestyle from natural dye methods, textile surface techniques, and the best of contemporary California design. I love dreaming up products for an artful sustainable home. I offer workshops to inspire you to live your best life by connecting you to your creativity and others. I hope to meet you in person at one of my current craft workshops for creatives like you! Join my tribe to receive your first free video on Shibori folding with me.
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