seaside day of natural dyes
The spectacular Point Reyes National Seashore was the setting for a natural dyes event on January 3rd, organized by Rebecca Burgess, teacher, writer, and founder of the Fibershed Project. After weeks of rainy weather, the sun shone brightly on our gathering of Fibershed artisans, supporters and farmers.
Once the fires were burning, the dye baths were heated. One of the copper pots contained the leaves of Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia), and the other contained California sagebrush (Artemisia californica). A stainless steel pot was filled with seawater for a natural mordant bath. (I want to experiment further with using seawater as a mordant, and use a stainless steel pot for the dye bath, rather than a copper one, since the copper of the pot can act as a mordant too. Plus, the toyon leaves contain quite a bit of tannin, which can also bind color to cloth or yarn, so that’s another factor to consider.)
While the dye baths were heating up, Rebecca gave a demo on using kelp and stones from the beach for shibori techniques.
The Toyon dye bath produced some spectacular results, and we hung the pieces to dry on a beautiful structure that some of the participants built using driftwood and kelp.
The California sage dye bath took a long time to yield color, so not many pieces were dyed. I brought home one skein that I had previously dyed a pale green with Omphalotus olivascens, and over dyed with California sagebrush to produce an unusual chartreuse. This is a plant I intend to experiment with further.
The day was memorable for the feeling of community, the new connections made, and the excitement of working with natural dyes such an incredibly beautiful environment. I look forward to more events of this nature as the community grows and flourishes.