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That time I foraged for color in my garden.

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natural plant dyes from my garden

One afternoon I clipped bougainvillea, mint, calendula and 8 other plants to play with.

My husband and I love to eat fresh local greens and try to grow as much as we can year round in our garden. In the summer, we’ve learned to plant our tomatoes so they’re not crowded and now they start to boom around June. And so do other plants such as bougainvillea and honey suckle. I’ve been seeking new colors to bring into my line and I realized I should just take a walk in my own garden and see what I can come up with.

From all my cuttings, I think I found 11 different plants that will dye fabric. I used a combo of awesome natural dye books out there by Kristine Vejar, Sasha Duerr and Rebecca Desnos to name a few.

Mason Jars in a pot

Extracting plant dyes, wondering what my garden’s palette will look like!

Following Sasha Duerr’s recipe for natural plant dyes, I took some pre-mordanted canvas and silk and prepared a bunch of mason jars in a large stainless steel pot. I labeled each jar, put the plant matter in and kept the water temperature at 190 for 40 mins to extract the dyes.

This is a method I learned from taking a private lesson from Kathy Hattori of Botanical colors a while ago. I’m planning on writing a blog post about that amazing weekend later.

My kitchen smelled so nice! Like a perfumery or tea house. I even had a honeybee try to buzz in to my house because it smelled so good. That’s never happened before.

Plant dyes fermenting

Plant dyes fermenting for 5 days.

After they simmered for 40 mins, I left them in the pot overnight to extract longer, let them sit for 5 days to ferment a little, getting more saturated. Finally, I used cheesecloth and strained the dye from the plant matter. I did this so I can use the pure dye with no chance for extra matter to create spots on my fabric.

some colors swatches of my garden palette

A few color swatches of my garden palette drying in the sun.

I’m so excited to see my backyard color palette extracted on linen and silk. I’d mordanted with alum either sulfate or acetate. These are Bougainvillea, Mint, Walnut and Hibiscus. Can you guess which swatch is which?

My kitchen smelled so nice! Like a perfumery or tea house. I even had a honey bee try to buzz in to my house because it smelled so good. That’s never happened before.

Next I’ll pick some of my favorite colors and experiment with an iron mordant and citric acid. Check back again as I'll post my full palette with different mordant experiments. 

I'd love to hear what color experiments you're playing with. Let me know what's exciting you in the comments below.

color DIY fiber inspo natural dyes process studio

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