Natural plant dyes are a wonderful way to deepen our relationship to the local environment through foraging, gardening, wildcrafting, or even using common food scraps. Vibrant and complex colors can be achieved from plants such as goldenrod, black walnut, sumac, acorns, marigolds, calendula, onion skins, avocado pits and the list continues. I often use natural plant dyes to rejuvenate secondhand garments or to add color to my wardrobe and allow my fiber arts practice to intersect with my closet.
While there are a myriad of ways to obtain natural color I find working with whole plants grown from my backyard garden, foraged from my surrounding fields, woods, and parks, or taken from my kitchen table before they meet my compost bin to be the most rewarding and exciting. Working with whole plants from our everyday environment allows us to deepen our connection, understanding, and appreciation of the natural world. Dyeing a secondhand wool sweater with goldenrod from my neighbor’s field and then wearing that color on my back all winter creates an attachment to my local surroundings that better roots me in this physical place and pays gratitude to the bright yellow fields that will return with warm weather. Not to mention, many dye plants double as medicinal plants and if we take the herbalists perspective of working with simple plants to make medicine, then wearing our medicine in our garments offers another opportunity for healing and connection.
I teach mending, natural dyes, and rethinking fashion at workshops and retreats across the United States. For more information about upcoming natural dye workshops, please join my website or check out the News section of my website. As I live in the Hudson Valley of Upstate NY, our growing and foraging season is richest from May- October though I do work with food scraps, dried plants, and otherwise preserved plant dyes year-round.