None of my natural dye experiments thus far have blown me away quite like Goldenrod. As with Queen Anne’s Lace I knew to expect some yellows, but the colors were seriously deep and vibrant.queen anne's lace goldenrod3

I realize that sort of tie dye effect that you can see on some of these photos can be avoided by stirring more and putting less in the dye pot. The thing is I like that look. If it weren’t there you might just think I bought this yellow fabric. To me it gives that imperfect variation that I like to see in homemade.goldenrod2 goldenrod1

The one piece in that last picture that is pale is cotton that had not been mordanted. Obviously the silks took the color better, but even the pale piece of cotton will be nice for something.

I have to mention the goldenrod spiders. I’m not actually sure what their proper name is, and you wouldn’t even know they were there if you didn’t throw your goldenrod in a pot of water. They blend in so well with the plant. But check out the edge of the pot. They started coming out as soon as I got the dye bath started. If you don’t like spiders, don’t go picking goldenrod, because there were tons of these guys!

goldenrod spider

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.

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 haveĀ 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.