November 22, 2009
The first yarns that I ever dipped into dye baths, were immersed in madder root, weld, and Indigo—India, Central America and Europe were the landscapes of origin for my dye stuffs. So much importing for a natural dye seemed paradoxical. I read, I researched, and eventually, over the years I figured out new ways of localizing my process. I grow many of my own colors now, and am always looking for a more local source when I do need to purchase a dye stuff. I was so excited when I discovered Katy Blanchard, and her natural dye and herb farm– Urban Eagle Herb Co., in Youngsville, New Mexico.
Blanchard was apart of a collaborative project between New Mexico State University, Becky Thorp of Sunstar Herb Farm, and Luz Hernandez of Las Cruces. In 2006 the project was awarded a Western SARE grant to explore the viability of raising dye crops. They were required to grow cota, Hopi dye sunflower, tansy and weld, plus four other species of their own choice for the particular growing conditions of their area. Blanchard introduced madder–other plants being grown included woad, coreopsis, cosmos, yellow yarrow, holly hocks, black-eyed Susans, safflower, marigold, alkanet and Mexican sunflower. Blanchard’s excitement for this project was in part due to her knowledge of the overlapping uses of many of these species–cota for instance is known as Navajo tea (on the Navajo reservation), and is a wonderful digestive aid, and immune system tonic, as well as creating a brilliant yellow and sometimes orange in the dye vat.
If you go to Blanchard’s Urban Eagle Herb Farm Website, you can see more pictures of the farm, and the list of available dye materials. Currently listed dye stuffs are, cota, coreopsis, cosmos, tansy, and madder root. This year Blanchard sold out of many of her dyes already, so email her directly at email@example.com to see what she has available. She also sells her dyes at the Espanola Valley Fiber Arts Center, in Espanola, New Mexico
I am grateful to Katy Blanchard’s pioneering spirit– and that she is able to offer both her local and greater Western United States community some wonderful home grown dye stuffs. I hope to see more kindred-dye-growing souls like her in the future. All these lovely pictures were taken by Blanchard, among her many talents she is also an experienced weaver and knitter.