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Growing Color: My First Dye Garden

Freshly planted marigolds

With the gardening season coming to a close, I want to take some time to look back on my first attempt at growing my own natural dyes. We have limited space and my thumb is not very green, so when I began thinking about planting a dye garden I knew I needed to keep it simple. I selected a couple dye plants based on the colors that I was hoping to achieve and how hardy they were.  I decided to start with marigolds, dyer’s coreopsis, and hopi black dye sunflowers. I purchased my marigolds at the nursery already started and I bought the dyer’s coreopsis and hopi black dye sunflower seeds from bedheadfiber.com.

Throughout the summer, with the help of my husband and kids, I was able to keep these flowers alive. We also grew some vegetables and the kids love picking fresh carrots and watching the plants grow and develop over the course of the season.

Every other evening we would pop the dyer’s coreopsis flower heads off the plant and strip the petals into a bowl. By the next day there would be a whole new crop of bright, yellow flowers to pick. The petals were left to dry out overnight and now I have a large jar of color just waiting to be used all winter. I also collected seeds from some of the flowers with hopes that next summer they will develop.

I collected the marigolds as they died and let them dry out as well. Next year I would love to make a marigold garland. This seems like a beautiful way to collect and let the flowers dry out. I would also like to try another variety of marigolds, but I’m undecided about which one yet.

As for the hopi black dye sunflowers, they were a bit slow to start and I wasn’t sure if they were going to produce any flowers. Sure enough they grew and grew and flowers began to emerge. They did not get as tall as I have seen and the heads were only about the size of both of my fist, but they were beautiful. Once the heads died, I cut them off the stalk and let them dry out a bit. Then I harvested the seeds into a bowl to let them further dry out. I haven’t done any experimenting with them yet, but I’m looking forward to seeing what colors can be achieved.

Once again, growing a garden has taught me to be more patient; to be mindful and intentional in the hopes of getting something that will serve me well in the future. I am very much looking forward to using all the color that we collected this summer throughout the winter. Next summer, I have hopes to add a couple more dye plants to our garden. I would love to try pin cushions, goldenrod, and indigo. I’m sure come April, when I’m ready to see green again, I will have a long list that I will need to edit back in order to fit it all in.

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Out and About

Happy Friday! It’s been a whirlwind of a week with little sleep. I have been doing a lots of knitting (see above walk with kiddos…having knitting will travel, right?) and planning for future dye projects, but don’t have much to share at the moment. Teething baby has left me with lots of nursing time and I have been reading and researching during much of that time. I’ve been coming across and collecting articles and links related to sustainability and the fashion industry. So I thought I would compile a list regularly for you to peruse at your leisure. I don’t want to limit this collection to sustainability and fashion, but also include natural dyeing, small business development, mindfulness, etc. If you find anything around the web that might be of interest please hit me up at emily@goldfinch.limited.

  • Fabric made from wood – This sounds very interesting; especially the potential of a closed loop system. I wonder how it would take natural dyes?
  • Fast fashion = modern-day slavery – It’s so easy to look over and not think about and I know there are many layers and facets, but it’s something that needs to start being talked about more.
  • A sustainable vision for fast-fashion? – This article really breaks down the emergence of fast fashion and it’s environmental and social impacts. It discusses ways some of the fast fashion companies are attempting to reduce and improve these impacts.
  • Way to go Columbia – ReThreads: Clothing Recycling Program
  • EF Renew – A take-back program that uses damaged and unwanted Eileen Fisher and turns them into new garments.
  • More ways to avocado pits – This makes me wonder if you could still use them to dye with after making broth and/or if you will have pink soup.

Enjoy and I hope everyone has a good weekend!