Monday, October 29, 2012

Foraging for color

I have a new hero, her name is India Flint. Between her and Rebecca Burgess I am feeling pretty excited about this dyeing fluff with plant stuffs business. When I went back home this summer to visit family I came back with all kinds of roots and flowers and leaves to try out. My grandparents helped me pick tickseed coreopsis along the roadside and after going through Harvesting Color with me my Grandpa John pointed out that he had several sorts of pants from the book right in his yard. In Georgetown I discovered wild hops and pokeberry, possibly leftover a time when folks still ate poke sallet and homebrewing was less a hobby than what you did if you wanted some beer in the house. So, between all those foraged bags of plant matter I've built up quite the stash of yellowy, purple-grey, earthy and acid green fiber. With winter coming on I'm wishing I got out there more, stashed and dried some rabbitbrush and sage at least. But that's what winter is for-planning and scheming for the things I'll do come spring.

I'll leave you with this mini-photo essay. It documents the process I meandered through from foraging to dyeing with aspen leaves, the last plant I gathered before the cold really set in here. In between the steps I was reading India Flint's amazing book, Eco Colour and getting lots of ideas to augment what I had already learned and put into practice with Rebecca Burgess' book. I highly recommend reading both if this is a subject that catches you, too.


I gathered most of the leaves from the old Georgetown Cemetery. It's part Royal Tenenbaums and part The Graveyard Book. I noticed that the place is also a bit of a botanic garden, so I'm sure to go back soon.

I left the leaves in my kitchen for a bit, too long I thought when I went check them again. So I added some fresher leaves from my yard and used an India Flint trick...I let them hang out in one of my pots for a few days. I giggled a bit when I stirred them one morning and they started talking to me with fermentation bubbles.


I know, I know. Pee in a bottle, right? But this is the color I got after a few days of cold, fermenting extraction. The next step was putting the pot and some fiber of various mordants over low heat and repeating that cycle a few times.

Which got me this handful of fluff, dyed a deep, earthy yellowy-green. I noticed that the color of the dye bath had deepened to an orange color and now I'm repeating the cold/hot cycle with some unmordanted fiber.
One thing that caught my attention in the cemetary was the abundance of lichens. Normally it's an ecological taboo to go scrapping this slow-moving, low-yielding symbiosis all helter-skelter. But cleaning it off of old gravestones is one of the exceptions.



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