Time for Toyon
November 8, 2009
Toyon is a year-round favorite at dye workshops, yet it is truly the fall and winter prunings that make the strongest vats. This tall shrub produces bright red berries at this time of year, that last well into the late winter. They are hard, loved by birds, and with some roasting can be eaten by humans too. The plant appears to have more pigment within its stems in the colder months. Pruning back the suckers, and gangly stems is one method of collecting for the dye pot, without taking the berries (these aren’t needed to make dye.)
Here is the plants hearty autumn leaves, and if you look closely you can see the red pigment that is traveling up through the stems and through veins. This pigment is what yields these rusty orange tones on the wool.
This color was produced in a stainless steel vat, and is perfect for the season. It would make a lovely neck cowl, or cozy hat. The longer the leaves and stems soak for, the stronger the color seems to be. Because of the heartiness of many of the native species, it requires time, and some periodic heat to release the desired color. Without this long processing time, Toyon produces a range of yellows.