Log in

Textiles West Natural Dye Garden at Flying Pig Farm



  • August 07, 2018 2:49 PM | Sara Anderson (Administrator)

    Harvesting the African Marigolds is the easiest part of the process.  You simply cut off the mature flowers.  It is okay to pinch the blooms off with your fingers if you don’t have pruning shears handy.  I left about 1” of stem attached to the flower.  One problem I had at first was mistaking blooming flowers for dying ones, but I since learned that a bloom that looks like it’s dying may in fact just be getting ready to bloom.

    The flowers can be used right away or stored for later.  If you want to store the flowers, lay them out to dry first someplace dry and out of the way.  It may take a few days.  Just check the middle and if it is still squishy, even a little bit, give it another day or so to dry.  Even the littlest amount of moisture can cause mold when you place your flowers in an air tight container for storage.

    If I were harvesting in the wild (which I haven’t yet), I’d like to follow the principles of the honorable harvest.  I learned about these principles in the book Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer.  The principles include never take the first one, ask permission, listen for the answer, use everything that you take, be grateful, minimize harm, share what you’ve taken, reciprocate the gift, and take only that which is given.

    Although we have grown these flowers purposefully for dyeing, I think the principles can still apply.


  • July 31, 2018 10:24 AM | Sara Anderson (Administrator)

    African marigold seeds sit upon a shibori dyed scarf I created in the Inspire Me: Dip and Dye Silk Scarves Class.   I took this photo and thought the seeds looked like fireworks on the horizon with a cosmic background as an unidentified onlooker to the left watches.  I keep the seeds in the scarf for next season.

    If you’re looking to grow your own natural dye plants but have no idea where to start, then the brief and simple For Newbies From a Newbie posts are for you.  Through the posts, I share my path to growing and dyeing with natural dye plants.  Whether followed to a T, or modified where it makes sense, I hope my path can serve as a guide to getting you started with growing and using dye plants.  I don't have all the answers, but that may be as good a reason to try as any.

    The first year I decided to grow dye plants, I soon realized I had no clue what to plant or where to get the seeds.  Googling the topic provided so many options that I found it difficult to narrow it down and soon found myself throwing down vegetable seeds for that summer.  I had some great salads that I don't regret but still no dye plants.  While I found a dye garden internship to teach me the ways, I know that is not practical for everyone.  So, I hope this guide is.  Here I will share the basics of what I learned from Textiles West, especially Peggy, about starting a dye garden.

    For simplicity, I'm focusing on growing African Marigolds, my #1 recommended confidence booster.  The plants are hearty and the blooms profuse!  African Marigolds are the zucchinis of the dye plant world.   

    The first thing you need to do is buy some seeds.

    Where to purchase seeds:

    One place the seeds can be purchased is from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds at www.rareseeds.com.

    What to purchase:

    If you are feeling ambitious, here are the other seeds, besides African Marigolds, that I planted:



    •      Flower Plains Coreopsis
    •      Cosmos Bright Lights
    •      Hollyhock Jet Black 
    While you are waiting for your seeds to arrive, perhaps make sure you have some potting soil and seed starter trays (or something similar) ready to go.  If the plants are indoors, you may want to have some grow lights too.  You really don't need anything else, but I like to supplement my watering with fish emulsion.  It is stinky, but the plants love it, so it is worth it.


    Once the seeds arrive, you'll be ready to plant!

  • July 26, 2018 2:55 PM | Sara Anderson (Administrator)

    By: Sara Anderson, Textiles West Summer 2018 Dye Garden Intern

    Would you believe me if I told you I had never heard of Textiles West when I first received a voicemail from them about their dye garden project?

    It went down like this:

    I found myself once again on break at my part time job shoveling in as many dried mangoes as possible (can’t. get. enough.) in the 15 minutes allowed when I noticed I had a new voicemail. Without missing a beat on my priority task of mango popping, I soon heard the chipper voice of Melanie Audet, Textiles West program director, informing me that this is their first year with a dye garden…

    Okay, so there was a little behind the scenes work done before this seemingly out of the blue message was received.

    I’ve decided this year to create my world around me as much as possible. This means shaping my outside environment to suit my inner self rather than shaping myself to suit my outside environment. So, to fill the 1 elective credit I needed for my minor, I decided to dream up my perfect internship rather than choose a prefabricated class from a list.

    In a nutshell, my dream included learning to grow, harvest, store, and use natural plant dyes. I knew there had to be someone or some organization that knew how to do this and would be willing to teach me, but I didn’t know who it was or where they were (hiding in plain sight).

    So, I wrote all my requirements down, arranged them into a somewhat professional appearance and sent my request out into the Universe. And when I say Universe, I mean as many artist collectives and yarn shops as I could find in Colorado Springs.

    Textiles West heard the call and the best part is… they called me back!

    When we give ourselves a chance to have what it is we want, we just might get it.

    Now it’s your turn.

    Ask yourself what it is that you want to create in your life. Maybe you already know. It could be something as simple as rearranging your furniture or reconnecting with an old friend. Maybe you’re like me and want to pick up some knew skills such as sewing or dyeing. Link to some upcoming classes here. Or maybe you’re thinking bigger picture like starting your own business.

    Whatever it is, I encourage you to create the world around you as much as possible. Give yourself a chance, even if you have no clue how it’s going to work out.

    I did.

    Sara


  • July 26, 2018 12:27 PM | Sara Anderson (Administrator)

    It seems the hungry grasshoppers in the dye garden have an accomplice. Peggy has dubbed the perpetrators “squash” bugs, though I am not at liberty to say why. They have a penchant for gnawing on the joints of plant stems until whole sections break off, young buds and all. Numerous counts of this destructive crime have been committed.

    Here is a squash bug mug shot. If you or anyone you know has information about how to stop the squash bugs, please dial 9-1…Oh wait, guess I got a little carried away. Yeah, just let us know if you know an organic way to keep them off the plants. Please and thank you.

    Sara

    Textiles West dye garden intern

    Correction: The bugs are actually called squash bugs.  Also, www.almanac.com/pest/squash-bugs says planting nasturtium, an edible flower plant, near the affected plants may help.

  • July 07, 2018 6:50 PM | Sara Anderson (Administrator)

    Do you ever start a project and then realize once it’s going that you get way more out of it than you originally intended? 

    For breakfast after Monday morning’s dye garden work day, my go-to meal of over-easy eggs with salsa, avocado, and whatever else is lingering in the fridge that day was supplemented by cilantro from the dye garden that was headed for the compost pile.  

    No, cilantro is not necessarily a dye plant (that I know of).  And, it’s not the only volunteer plant in the garden. 

    Gorgeous onions that frame the South side of the garden, some lettuces, and corn (that might be grass masquerading as corn, I’m just giving it a little while to reveal its true identity while I secretly hope its corn) have all showed up in the dye garden.

    But unexpected veggies aren’t the only thing being volunteered in the garden.  During the work day (which technically isn’t a day, it’s 2 hours), Textiles West members discuss more than just dye plants.  Lisa recommends a local restaurant and a book about a local pioneer woman.  Kerry speaks of a Ted Talk phenomenon that has energized thousands to see the world in a more positive light.  Peggy and I learn we both follow the same tv show.

    Whether it’s a topping for my breakfast, pop culture, or historical figures, it can’t be denied that I’m gaining more knowledge from this internship than just how to make plant dyes.  Click here for a [still in-process] guide for newbies by a newbie [me] on how to grow/harvest plant dyes.

    I can’t wait to see what else this internship brings!

    Whatever your next adventure, I hope you gain more from it than you originally thought you would.


About the Garden

The Textiles West experimental dye garden is located at Flying Pig farm education center in Manitou Springs. We have planted Indigo, Marigold, Coreopsis, and  Madder among a few other things.

Sara Anderson is a senior at UCCS and the Textiles West Dye Garden Intern for summer 2018.  Sara learns how to grow and use natural dye plants from Peggy and the Textiles West members and then blogs about her findings.  Her posts include a series titled For Newbies from A Newbie which aims to guide beginners as they enter the world of natural dyes.


RESOURCES

If you want to know everything we know about natural dyeing, you're in luck because we want you to too. We are constantly learning as well.  Here are some books and websites to get any aspiring natural dyer started or to help the intermediate gardener to continue learning.  Also, check out the For Newbies By A Newbie posts in the blog section above to see a truthful non-intimidating look at how to get started with your own dye plants. 

Websites:

Janice Ford Memorial Dye Garden:  https://www.facebook.com/growingadyegarden/

US Department of Agriculture Forest Service - Native Plant Dyes: https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/ethnobotany/dyes.shtml

Books:

Harvesting Color - Rebecca Burgess

A Garden to Dye For - Chris McLaughlin

A Weaver's Garden: Growing Plants for Natural Dyes and Fibers - Rita Buchanan

A Dyer's Garden: From Plant to Pot, Growing Dyes for Natural Fibers - Rita Buchanan

Wild Color, Revised and Updated Edition: The Complete Guide to Making and Using Natural Dyes - Jenny Dean and Karen Diadick Casselman 

The Handbook of Natural Plant Dyes: Personalize Your Craft with Organic Colors from Acorns, Blackberries, Coffee, and Other Everyday Ingredients - Sasha Duerr 

Indigo: Cultivate, Dye, Create - Douglas Luhanko and Kerstin Neumuller

Wild Colour - Jenny Dean

Harvesting Color: How to Find Plants and Make Natural Dyes - Rebecca Burgess

The Modern Natural Dyer: A Comprehensive Guide to Dyeing Silk, Wool, Linen and Cotton at Home - Kristine Vejar

Natural Color: Vibrant Plant Dye Projects for your Home and Wardrobe - Sasha Duerr

Events to Dye For, Naturally
  • August 17, 2018 1:00 PM
    TWIL at Manitou Art Center 513 Manitou Ave Manitou Springs CO
  • August 18, 2018 2:00 PM
    TWIL@Manitou Art Center 513 Manitou Ave Manitou Springs, Co 80829

Textiles West
@ Cottonwood Center for the Arts
427 E Colorado Ave
Colorado Springs, CO 80903

Textiles West ~ TWIL
@ Manitou Art Center
513 Manitou Ave
Manitou Springs, CO 80829

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software