The Days of Spring Dyeing

May 29, 2011

The spring dye season began at the Filoli Estate in Woodside this year.  Expansive meadows, riparian ecosystems, oak studded woodlands… a perfect place for our first and semi-rainy day of dye work.

We painted with crushed stone and fruit inks… and then immersed our work in dye vats of the season.

The water laden plants created a soft palate whose tones looked so much like our surroundings.

The experiments continued throughout the afternoon, the playful samples kept coming…

The following week, I was off to the schools.. this lovely piece was done by an 8th grade crew working on re-purposing their thrift store finds during a week of Eco-chic explorations.

These T-shirts were in their first phase of being refurbished… the students used shibori techniques with tongue depressors and coffee stirrers.  Next step: embroidery, and sewing.

The whole collection, inspired from the spring recipe for Logwood!

Gorgeous colors came from our Bay Area Discovery Museum dye day– the bright yellow emerged from distaff dye pots.  Every child’s favorite color!  It also happens to be a species that our open space districts, national parks, and other land management agencies are spraying with herbicides to remove… I much prefer dye making from such a plant.  I recommend the master dye bath recipe, as well as an alkaline after bath.  

Into the distaff dye pot went our little flags.

Out came the brightest yellow!  Everyone was so pleased.

We pounded colors from our cultivated gardens into our distaff colored fabric swatches.  We used the spring dye starter recipe from the new book Harvesting Color.  This particular project is perfect for children and adults seem to love it too.

The end result…. little pounded distaff dyed cloths!
More spring dyes to come… with these late spring rains, their will be so much to harvest!

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8 Responses to “The Days of Spring Dyeing”

  1. Lynn D Says:

    Nice colors , what is the “weed” yellow from.
    what a nice purple also (is that logwood?)
    My son likes that olive green, but havnt make it on cotton yet.

    Congrats on your new book!!

    Lynn D

  2. Dana Says:

    Oh I wish I could’ve learned to make such beauty when I was in school. I just bought your bought (love it!) and am going to be experimenting with the pounding flower technique too :)

  3. ecologicalartist Says:

    Distaff is a thistle with yellow flowers, and a tall very intense stalk of spikey points. Land management agencies seem to be at war with it… and yet it is traditionally known as a european saffron due to its gorgeous color options! We can do society a great service by cutting it back, and dissuading agencies from spraying it.

  4. Lynn D Says:

    Oh you mean Star Thistle? pokes me when walk thru a field. If we weed it when seedlings and ground soft is easier. Also telling everybody can use to make beautiful colors . is that the whole plant for dyepots? http://www.cal-ipc.org/ip/management/yst.php
    Yes letting gov how can use the plants and not spray!
    Be well
    Lynn D

  5. ecologicalartist Says:

    Hi Lynn!

    Yellow star thistle is a bit different than distaff

    wooly distaff thistle (Carthamus lanatus)

    Here are some pics http://www.cdfa.ca.gov/phpps/ipc/weedinfo/carthamus-lanatus.htm

    So glad you are harvesting this plant! Now is the time!!

  6. ecologicalartist Says:

    Use a wood ash solution to brighten it as an afterbath


  7. [...] The spring dye season began at the Filoli Estate in Woodside this year.  Expansive meadows, riparian ecosystems, oak studded woodlands… a perfect place for our first and semi-rainy day of dye work. We painted with crushed stone and fruit inks… and then immersed our work in dye vats of the season. The water laden plants created a soft palate whose tones looked so much like our surroundings. The experiments continued throughout the afternoon, t … Read More [...]

  8. WildC Says:

    Love those faded tones that you say reflect your surroundings – just beautiful! And so wonderful to do this work with kids :) Kudos to you!


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