The Horse’s Tail

July 2, 2009

Eco-Color Files

This primordial plant has always mystified me, as it’s origins predate every seeding plant on the planet. It has been around for 400 million years. If only it could tell the rich and incredible story of its time here on earth! This dye process was an attempt to unearth the secrets that lie within its hollow stock, and soft spines.


While harvesting horsetail, I noticed its rough ridges, and delicate spines, I could almost see in this small stalk the once tall tree-like ancestor it came from. For thousands of years, humans used horsetail as sand paper, and likely it was used medicinally. Its mineral content is high, and is most well known for healing urinary tract infections. When you find a stand of horsetail, it is generally quite large, it grows like a ground cover when it finds an area it likes, which is generally seasonally wet sandy soils. It can pop up like a forest, of light and airy stalks, leaving little room for anything else to grow.


Like its unique status among plants, it is no wonder it yields the most unique and unexpected color imaginable. A light rose, emerged from the steaming dye vat, after several days of preparation. The wool skeins pictured were both locally sourced. I handspun the chunky yarn from wool purchased at Windrush farm in the Chileno Valley. This color will look incredible with the other plant dyed colors I’ve been preparing for this season’s summer eco-couture designs.


Along the road where I went to photograph the yarns amongst the horsetail, I stopped by this organic roadside farm. I was quite happy to see those tending the small field had all ridden their bicycles to work that day. Beautiful to see the tended and farmed landscape set against the open coastal hillsides. Looking forward to sharing more eco-color with you as it emerges from the dye vats. In the meantime, drop me a comment about your experiences in the wild- do you tend it, observe it, receive inspiration from it?

3 Responses to “The Horse’s Tail”

  1. Hanna Says:

    Wow, when you said the vat had been prepared for several days, what do you mean? Did you have the fiber and horsetails soaking together? Were you simmering it for much of that time? I’m very curious!

    Love your blog, and thank you for the inspiration!


    • ecologicalartist Says:

      I liked to extract the pigment with infrequent boiling over several days, I really only added the yarn in later, not during the extraction iteself. Thanks for checking in!

  2. ecologicalartist Says:

    Oh, and I didn’t keep the yarn in for probably more than 1/2 day, with a fraction of that time on high heat. I’m perfecting my notes on the recipe now. I normally just ‘do’ and feel it! Again, thanks for checking in.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: