October 18, 2009
The cultivation of natural color, is a process that I feel committed to take part in for all of my living days. Making color from renewable, natural materials leads me deeper into the ecosystem with each new dye-yielding plant that I discover. I made a new discovery rather recently– (new to me), using Zinnia’s. This colorful favorite of gardeners never attracted my focus before, until I ventured to Gospel Flat Farm in Bolinas, California. It was at this beautiful creekside organic farm, that I became inspired to give Zinnias some attention.
Although we are well into October, this coastal farm was growing Zinnias, while simultaneously harvesting pumpkins and butternut squash. The young farmers allowed me to harvest my own bouquets, giving me a chance to spend some time in the beautiful rows of vibrant color– where marigold, zinnias, and foxgloves abounded. I used predominantly red zinnias- the bouquet was enjoyed in my kitchen before entering the dye vat.
The beauty of Zinnia’s in the dye pot, inspired the instantaneous question, ‘why would you make color any other way?’ Natural dye making is just so incredibly beautiful– every nook and cranny of the process brings joy.
The outcome was like butter cream, with a gentle luster to it. While it is well known how many yellow tones are in the world of natural dyes- what I find so astonishing, is how well trained my eye has become for ‘yellow’. I’ve become a connoisseur of yellows, and very discerning over what plant will give me just the right shade for the job. I am very appreciative of the Zinnia flower, it is now one more plant to add to the dye garden. At this point I am actively looking for more ground to tend- my dye garden would like to expand!