First Natural Dye Test: Hearts a Burstin (outer pods)

At some point in college one of my friends took a natural dye workshop. I have no idea why I didn’t take it, but I remember swooning over her notebook full of little swatches. The muted, earthy tones that you get from most natural dyes are exactly the colors I love (reason #62 that I’m ready for this silly 80’s neon craze to pass). I was in love and knew that one day I would try my hand at some natural dyes.

When we moved back to the farm last March, I knew the time had come. I’ve been gathering the materials I needed to get going and this week I did my first test batch with natural dyes!

ImageRemember those Hearts A Burstin? I saved a handful, separated the berries from the pods (? I have no idea if that is the correct term here, but it seems right) , and soaked them for about a week. The berries are still soaking waiting their turn at a test. This is what the jar with the pods looked like after one week.


The bright pink coloring was drab and the water was very murky. From this point I boiled them to extract as much color as possible.


Then I threw in a few little fabric bits. I didn’t mess with straining out the plant pieces. Since this was just a test I had no idea if I would get any color at all, or if it would actually stay on the fabric once it was rinsed.


The fabric soaked in the dye bath for about 16 hours at which point I brought it to a boil again and soaked another 12+ hours. Here is what I got.

This first picture shows silk noil. On the right is a piece that had been treated with alum (I followed the directions in Wild Color omitting the Cream of Tartar, because I didn’t have any on hand). On the left is a piece that had not been treated and they are both laying on a piece that has not been dyed.


And this picture is kona cotton. It had not been mordanted and it too is laying on undyed fabric of the same type.


The results were exactly what I expected based on what I’ve read. Animal fibers take the dye better than plant and mordants really do help.

I’m not sure if I’ll use these for dye again, but I’ve got about a year to decide since there aren’t very many left. I think the best part about using these is that the kids can enjoy gathering them with me.

Next up, I have an oak leaf dye bath going and it is looking pretty promising. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the fabric really keeps the color once rinsed. Come back next week and I’ll show you.



I find a bunch of flowers found in the wild (considered by many to be a mere weed) far more satisfying than the most beautiful, arranged, bouquet from a flower shop. These are on my table right now. I don’t even know what they are, but I love them. They seem white at first glance, but have a very subtle lavender color. I might just pick these every fall.

Hunting and Gathering (Part 2)

In part 1 I showed a few of the things I’ve gathered to do small tests with, but in this post I’ll show you what I’m going to use for some larger scale tests.

First up, acorns.

This one is covered in Wild Color so I know that it is a good source of natural dye and have at least some idea what sort of colors may come from it. Of course there are lots of factors so I can’t wait to see what I actually get.



If you haven’t ever really looked at an acorn you should. They are such a beautiful little shape with subtle color variations. I fully plan on having a nice clear jar full of them sitting on my counter next fall.Image

There is an oak tree right by the kids play area so it was super easy to gather these over several days. One day we were actually sitting there watching one drop every few minutes. So fun. The boys were very helpful with this one.Image

I rinsed them, though I’m not entirely sure that was necessary. Jude let me borrow his new basket and it was just perfect for this purpose.


Look how gorgeous they were wet!Image

I’ll be crushing and soaking these sometime in the coming week to get them ready.

Next up, I noticed these interesting little guys on our walk one day.Image

Spiky on the outside and inside there are two triangular shaped seeds (which I should have taken a picture of. oops.). I had no idea what it was, but I was smitten with the shape so I gathered a bunch and looked them up when we got back to the house. Any idea what they are?

Beech nuts! I have no idea if these will be good for dyeing, but I’m going to try. This is Beech Cove farm after all. I’ve already crushed them and the husks seem to have a nice orange shade once smushed. That got me pretty excited. Here’s my crushing set up. It consists of a big chunk of metal that I use when putting grommets or snaps on things, a cardboard box to try and keep stray bits from flying everywhere, and a hammer that my husband was surprised to see me using and said, “Where did you find that?” “Um, on your workbench”.


Luckily this turned out to be more of a smushing endeavor than a crushed bits flying one, because there is no chance the kids were going to go play while Mama had fun with a hammer. Had it been truly dangerous I would have waited until they weren’t around, so like 16 years. I did wear protective glasses, but they ended up being pretty unnecessary and no I did not take any pictures of myself totally pulling off that look.ImageImage

These will also get soaked in the coming week.

My order from Dharma arrived yesterday. Carson laughs every time I mention Dharma and wants to know if I ordered any Dharma beer, which will only make sense to you if you were a Lost fan. The fabrics are gorgeous and I can’t wait to get some color on them. I also checked the current ph of our water with the testing strips I ordered. I had no idea what to expect since our tap water is actually coming from a spring up on the mountain, but alas it is neutral! Very excited that I won’t have to adjust the ph of all the water I use.

Hunting and Gathering (Part 1)

I’ve been in hunting and gathering mode this week. And by hunting I mean picking up whatever is easy to access as I take a morning walk with all three kids! I’m getting prepped for some natural dye experiments.
I’ve been dreaming of getting into natural dyes for years and I’m finally in the right place to do it. Fall is providing lots of great natural materials to try out. I’ve been reading  devouring Wild Color so I have some particular things in mind to try out, but I’m also enjoying just picking up whatever I find and looking it up when we get back to the house.

First off, here’s where we walk.ImageImage

The pictures really don’t do it justice. It’s pretty much like walking through a Thomas Kinkade painting. Sometimes getting everyone out the door is tough, but so worth it. This is by far this most calm, peaceful part of my day. And here are two of my companions.


Not gonna lie, the fact that they are actually dressed rather than still wearing jammies and huddled under a blanket is rare! Sometimes we make it all the way to lunch without getting dressed! Companion number three rides in the wrap.

Now for our finds.


I’m pretty sure these are hophornbeam seeds. I have a bunch of them soaking already, but they are not looking too promising. The seed pods are gorgeous and soft and papery, but if you go about picking a lot of them, as I did, you realize they have little hairs that stick to you. They are not near as stiff as the prickles of a cactus, but after a while they start to itch. I had to shower after gathering a bunch of these!


The Hearts a Burstin is one of mine and Jude’s favorite plants to look at on our walk. One day we picked three at different stages and I photographed them when we got back. I also have some of these soaking. So far the fruit seems to be giving off a little bit of orange, and the hulls are creating a deep purplish brown.




I have more, but don’t want to cram too many pics into one post, so I’ll share the rest another day.

birthday girl

My niece turned one this week and last weekend was the big party. My sister-in-law seriously went all out and it was a great party. I had the fabulous job of making the birthday girl’s outfit. My SIL had some pictures of outfits she liked that were all very similar and she bought the fabric. I really enjoy creating patterns so it was fun to try and get this one to come together. It turned out pretty cute, but not without a few hiccups. 


The biggest problem was that I got the bodice together and it was too big, but if I were to take it in any it would have been difficult or impossible to get on her. I ended up splitting the back and adding a button. I actually think I like it better this way.  What’s not to love about a huge fabric covered button? It was one of those “happy accidents” as my high school art teacher would say.


There is enough fabric in the back and in the straps to take it out as she grows. Sorry for the lack of good photos, but the girl was on the move!


Autumn Street Fair


Last Saturday was the Autumn Street Fair in McMinnville. We had a pretty full weekend, including my son’s first soccer game that morning so I only got to be at the Fair for about the last hour. I’m sure I was quite a site with baby in the wrap and the boys in the double stroller. Talk about turning heads ;). My wonderful hubby maned the booth along with his mom until she got food poisoning. Seriously, it was quite a weekend! Image

Despite the food poisoning, we were all pleased with our sales. Above you can see some organizers I had for sale and below are two baby gowns, a bag, a baby blanket and burp cloths.Image

Here’s a shot of the whole booth. My mother-in-law makes the windows and wreaths and my husband makes the lamps. Image

Now I’m busy gearing up for the craft fair in November, and there are a few Halloween costumes on my to do list as well.