flowers used for dyeing

Dyeing with Flowers – 8/15/20

Last week I went to a wonderful botanical dye workshop!

Located just west of Missoula, Montana on the traditional lands of the Bitterroot Salish (Selis), Pend d’Oreille (Qlispe), Nez Perce (Nimiipuu), and other Kootenai peoples, twelve of us were welcomed to County Rail Farm and Field Five Flowers with a tour of the large greenhouses (growing tomatoes/drying garlic) then led through fields of flowers in fragrant bloom. The class was held in a large well-ventilated barn, and we sat at long tables, one on each end, so that we could forgo our masks during mid-summer coronavirus season. After the tour we were given baskets for collecting flowers. There were dozens of roses, marigolds, love in the mist, zinnias, chrysanthemums, peonies, ranunculus, and many more.

I filled my baskets with deep red and pale peachy roses, indigo love in the mist, colorful zinnias, and pink snapdragons, then headed back to the barn to design. We were each given a square of silk and a linen table runner. Our teacher, Christina Arametta @walrusssbby, showed us the different colors we could create as well as different patterns by folding the fabric. She explained her mordanting process (how you get the colors “to bite” the fabric and become stay-fast). Her process involves soaking the fabric in cold soymilk (1 box soymilk: 5 parts water). I usually use Alum (aluminum sulfate) to mordant my fabrics so found this a nice alternative.

flowers hanging in barn and dyeing supplies

I laid out my silk first and spread petals on the fabric. In addition to flowers, we were given ground sandalwood, which eventually made a beautiful deep rust color. I worked on the linen, then wrapped both pieces around a stick and rolled them up. Next we took large mallets and hammered our pieces until the colors showed through the fabrics.

dyeing process

As we were doing this, we were given delicious ice cold basil water, and fresh farm salad with buffalo mozerella, homemade bread, and honey from another local venue, Hindu-hillbilly. It was literally a farm spa! Nourishing, magical, beautiful…!

At the end of the day, we dropped our pieces off with Christina, so that she could steam them for us to further fix the colors. When we picked them up a few days later, shook the steamed flowers out and unrolled our pieces, the silk held such deep rich colors, while the linen was more muted, soft, and rustic. Wonderful! I took the silk home and spread the linen table runner on my kitchen table.


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