163) Dye Garden

by Gail on February 2, 2012

So excited! My seeds for the dye garden have arrived!

My latest area of experimentation in my fibre art is using natural dyes on cotton fabric. I haven’t done much with natural dyes since university, where we dyed (and spun and wove) wool, using many of the same botanical dyes and a few mordants that are no longer considered safe (chrome and tin, for example.)

The back rock wall should collect all the heat I could want for the dye garden. It runs on a north-south axis, facing east, so will get sun almost all day. Some of the plants don't love sun, so I will plan the location of the tall plants to provide shade.

Late last summer we did the big landscaping thing, which created some terraces. I designated a bright, protected level to be my future dye garden, planted fall rye to embellish the soil, and planted a glorious sumac (in a pot to restrict its growth.)

The first plant, a Sumac, in the dye garden

In October, I took a wonderful course at Maiwa, on printing with natural dyes, from Michel Garcia. Michel is the founder of Couleur Garance (study group) and the Botanical Garden of Dye Plants, set in the Chateau de Lauris in France. Although Maiwa carries a wonderful variety of natural dyestuffs and extracts, I would love to grow some of my own. It turns out that finding a source of seeds for such dye plants as indigo, madder, and woad is not easy, although many common garden plants make fast dyes as well. (“Fast” meaning lasting or permanent.)

Some internet research did find the following sources of common dye plants:

Richters in Ontario for Tansy (a common roadside weed), Woad (blue), Coreopsis (flower), and Osage-Orange.

West Coast Seeds in BC for many common plants such as Coreopsis and Marigold.

And, the jackpot: Horizon Herbs in Oregon for their dye plant collection, which includes Madder (the best orange-red you can get from plants), Indigo (blue), Dyer’s Camomile, Elecampane, Our Lady’s Bedstraw, African Marigold and Stinging Nettles (another common roadside weed.)

Black walnut is another great dye plant, but it won’t be planted in my little bed. I’ll look for another part of the yard to install that one.

Wish me wisdom (works better than luck in this endeavor).



{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Joy February 2, 2012 at 3:21 pm

Another step forward. Hope you document in posts your dye garden’s progress.


Prince George Doug February 3, 2012 at 7:29 am

Gail wouldn’t say it, but I will: a garden to dye for.


Norm & Gwen Farrell February 8, 2012 at 1:04 pm

Impressive projects – both the construction and the record of it provided by your blog. It’s many years since we exchanged greetings in person but, despite that, the beauty and purpose of your work does not surprise even slightly. Best wishes to Gail, D and family.


Gail February 9, 2012 at 9:39 am

Great to hear from you, folks! Thank you for the compliments.


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