If you follow my social media and these blog posts, you know that I am currently working very hard to bring a naturally dyed yarn line to you. I also want part of the yarn line to be Fibershed certified, when it is possible to do in our Chesapeake Fibershed. So I’ve been foraging around our 25 acres and in places within 10 miles here to find dye plants that I can use. Yesterday, I was able to get some of these dye plants collected and prepared for dyeing into the fall.
Black Walnuts grow wild here on the property. They are just beginning to ripen and fall off the tree. I collected several pounds of them. Walnuts are dual purpose. The outer husk is where the dye lives. And the inner nut is oh, so yummy. Yes, they are hard to pick out from the shell, but they are worth the trouble in my opinion. So yesterday I broke open the husks and put those into a dye bag and laid out the nuts to dry in the sun.
We grew Hopi Black Sunflowers this year. Bill harvested the seed head several weeks ago, and I’ve been slowly picking the seeds out of the sunflower head. I’ll save these until later to dye, they will keep just fine. I saved the seed heads with some seeds in them to plant for next year. The plants are lovely and grew probably 8 feet in height. There’s nothing prettier in summer than a row of sunflowers.
And then there were the pokeberries. I cut off the sprays of berries and put them straight away into the freezer. I have to read up on how to dye with these. Unfortunately this dye tends to fade but still it will be lovely to try to use plants that our ancestors used.
We also harvested acorns, although we don’t have nearly enough to do anything with at this time. I will just keep adding to the stash until I have enough. And we picked up hickory nuts too. Those are just to pick and eat. They are also hard to crack and to get the nut meat out of, but they are really really nice. It feels great to live in a place where we can go out and forage for dyes and for food.
I’ve been talking about Fibershed. And in that light, I know that I need to relearn all about natural dyeing again. I’ve done it a lot. I’ve taken a lot of classes. But I’ve never done it in a production with reproducibility in mind. I will have to really pay attention to water and temperature and weight. And still I know there will be variability….that’s just the nature of natural dyeing.
As many of you know I do have a few naturally colored yarns in my line up already. They are more rustic yarns. They are not as soft as my Livily or Trasna yarns. They are just a little more hardy. And still, there are many items to make with these yarns. They are great for outwear. They are long wearing and will last a long time.
So in that vein, I’m now knitting a truly local sweater. I’m making a Shifty sweater. And I’ve had to do a lot of math and fanageling because I am using my own yarn that is bigger than the pattern calls for. And I don’t want a pullover style. So I added a steek area and so I’ll have a cardigan at the end. The back ground yarn is my Puck which is charcoal wool, mohair and alpaca. And the contrast yarns are mohair yarn that is naturally dyed. In fact this yarn has been hanging around for a long time since I dyed it. And now I have a project for it.
We’ve had a really mild winter. We had a week or two with temperatures in the teens. But it was a dry cold. We had maybe 2 or 3 days of snow and then it didn’t stay for a long time. It has made my winter feeding pretty easy.
So now I’m dreaming about restarting my natural dye garden. I tried this several years ago. And the only successful planting was the Madder. Oh Boy! It has taken over. I’m hoping to dig all the roots up in a few weeks. A great resource for dye plants is Rita Buchanan’s A Weaver’s Garden.
As part of my thoughts about a local wardrobe and a local fibershed, I decided to go all in with dye plants this year. I got plants that make blue, yellows, reds and a black.
I’m going to plant more and in a place where there is more sun as well. I’ll be updating here as the season progresses.
Where to find us
The studio is currently CLOSED to visitors….under construction. We will reopen soon!
We are located in Frederick MD. You can shop in person with a mask and lots of social distance! Or buy online and stop by to pick up…I’ll run your purchases out to you in your car.
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