the greens of summer

Above, that’s actually a photo from 2010. “There was a gigormous patch of it by the tracks so i headed there eagerly. Just as i got to the edge of the embankment, i heard a train and caught out of the corner of my eye one of the machines they use to keep track (narf) of the rails and trespassers, coming around the corner. Guess who was trespassing actually? Guess who fortunately (?) was so startled that she fell down the embankment into a tansy forest????? They never saw me, even backing up and looking while i flattened myself out on the ground down the edge. I felt guilty and silly at the same time, elated too 🙂 I snuck the camera out of my bag in case one tromped over and asked what the hell this middle aged frazzle haired freakwoman was doing lying on her face on CPR property in the weeds. Umm, taking pictures because i’m a botany specialist? HA! Got a BIG bag of tansy after they toodled back the way they came.”

As much as i love the results i’ve got with “traditional” natural dyes (ie the ones i have to buy, like madder–still waiting till the fall to harvest mine, indigo, cutch, osage, logwood etc), i love a good walk, with the DogFaced Girl of course :), to forage what i know are proven dye plants in my area.

My last big excursion with local plants for natural dye was a couple of years ago, and the results weren’t great. I was never sure if it was because the tansy was picked from a site that had previously been a (probably) highly contaminated ground for a gas station, or if it was just a bad year for colour. This year though there’s ACRES of the darn stuff, a highly invasive plant in the neighbourhood. I decided to try again, and my first excursion yielded the picking of 3.2 kilos (7.05lbs), barely a drop in the bucket even in my immediate area! I’ll be picking more, as there’s probably 1000 times that, no exaggeration, within the 3 block radius i pick in! It can be dried, but sometimes the shades are browner or weaker. That being said, it’s a good base to overdye with other colours: indigo for the most spectacular greens, madders for warmer yellow tones, or oranges and corals, and who knows what with quebracho rojo or cutch? I’ll be testing those as well.

When the flowers are gone, picked or naturally drying/dying on the plant, i can collect the leaves for greener yellows too.

I seriously upped the WOF this year as well, using twice the amount of plant matter per weight of cloth. YUM. This is YELLOW, a cool one, unlike the warmth of osage, but i do love the various shades with different yellow plants. When foraging locally too, the likelihood is that most plants are going to give yellows or greens, but post mods and other dyes can really extend the colour range. I can’t gather enough Solidago (Goldenrod), as the varieties that grow here are really mingy stunted little varieties. Ah, i miss the Ontario ones for colour, and beauty! (Not that i knew that when i lived there, oh so many many years ago…..)


Amazing what one plant, some pre and post mods, and 1 overdye colour can do. Note: these are all silk velvet, with tests to come on cotton and silk habotai.


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