Our guest artist today is Cathy Wycliff (Luvswool). She shares her adventure into dyeing with plants.
Recently I went to the Ozark Mountains in Arkansas for a two-week artists’ retreat. My plan was to spend two whole weeks felting with some time out for photographing the natural beauty of this area (think NW Arkansas, closer to Tulsa OK than Little Rock, AR. ) I also contemplated doing some natural plant dyeing, but it was the wrong season for collecting some of the natural plant materials in the area, such as oak galls and walnut hulls. I ended up ordering some botanical material from The Woolery, which amazingly arrived two days later!
While awaiting delivery, I got going with natural pine needles from the huge pine tree growing in the backyard. I snipped about two dozen clusters and began boiling them, later adding the white wool (domestic 56’s). The ending color did not jump out and grab me, but still I was pleased with the natural beige color which the pine needles produced–and a bonus was that the smell was heavenly.
Once my dyes arrived, I got to work rinsing and mordanting the wool (all of the wool I used was domestic 56’s from RH LINDSEY.) I began with madder, but this was quite a lengthy process of soaking the wool for over an hour, then mordanting the wool by cooking the alum and cream of tartar. Later when everything had cooled down, I then added the madder and wool.
Each dye I used required this lengthy process, and unfortunately, I had only one usable pot. After the first wool was dyed in madder, I changed the composition by adding iron, which developed a deeper color of red/orange.
I continued with the logwood as above, also developing a second shade of purple by adding iron.
Overnight drying time was needed, and here you can see the pine, madder and logwood drying in the kitchen.
I continued with osage, which achieved a golden color, not orange as is sometimes possible.
Next you see the osage and deeper shade of logwood drying.
Although I have done other kinds of dyeing previously–including indigo, food colors, acid dyes and even beets–natural plant dyeing is a whole new level of dyeing. I began thinking about the Native Americans and their use of natural plant dyes, as well as other very early ethnic groups around the world who had no other choices. And they didn’t even have gas stoves!
I was pleased with all of the results, which you can see here:
Left front –pine needles; Left rear — osage; middle two shades purple (+ iron), Middle rear — osage, Right — two shades madder (+ iron); Right front — cutch
I am looking forward to additional dyeing this summer, and perhaps even growing some of my own dye plants.