Summer flowers and plants hold a promise that outlasts the fleeting season: they are a traditional source of colour for dyeing fibres. Rebecca Burgess, an artisan and teacher based in San Geronimo, California, shows the way with her new book, Harvesting Color: How to Find Plants and Make Natural Dyes.
In the first part of the book, Burgess walks you through the steps of establishing a safe, simple home workspace. She identifies the necessary tools and equipment, demonstrates the process and offers master dye recipes.
The second part of the book is divided by seasons and plants associated with them. For many wild plants, she shows the range of native growth throughout North America. Many of the plants are common garden flowers, for example, the zinnias pictured on the cover of the book or black hollyhocks which produce a pretty mint-green hue.
She uses Japanese indigo, which is not indigenous to North America, to yield blue dye and describes its culture in her garden. For more detailed gardening information, have a look at the Sheep to Shawl website. It was created by Donna Druchunas, an author of several knitting books in the CPL collection.
A Green Guide to Country Crafts is another new book which offers information on the natural dyeing process along with a selection of homespun crafts like rug hooking which reuse household materials.
Both books offer resource lists for the States; Burgess includes a list of Canadian resources.
The Heritage Weavers and Spinners Guild of Calgary offers workshops and classes on weaving, spinning, dyeing throughout the year. In addition, they have a well-stocked library and equipment rentals and for their members.