Foraging for dye plants

School is back in session, and here in Toronto there is already a nip in the air.  As much as I lament the end of summer, fall is one of the best times to forage for wild dye plants, especially if you live somewhere cool, as I do.

For example, this time of year, goldenrod is absolutely EVERYWHERE, even in the heart of a major urban centre like Toronto.  Use it with alum to create gorgeous yellows, or with iron for soft olive greens.  And if you're like me and are into brighter shades, goldenrod yellow overdyed with indigo produces the most extraordinary greens.


Another great dye plant that is everywhere these days is Black Walnut.  If you have one of these trees near you, you're probably already familiar with how much pigment they contain - just handling them can leave your fingers dyed brown.  Rich in tannins, the green husks contain tons of colour - gorgeous shades of brown on both plant and animal fibres, and with iron as your mordant you can even get to black.


I've found that the strongest shades are produced with a bath that I've left kind of "fermenting" outside -  a pile of walnuts in a bucket with water, left for a week or two.  Just make sure that you have a tightfitting lid (or bring it inside), otherwise the squirrels will wreak havoc!

And again, if brown is not your thing, walnut fabric can be overdyed with indigo as a way of creating a deep, rich, very dark blue.  I was also super interested to read this blog post where master dyer Catherine Ellis used walnut to create an indigo vat.  I'd love to try it this fall (though to be fair, fall is also when I'm busiest with my other business, so who am I kidding?)

And if you don't have time to get out foraging, you can always buy your dyes direct online from us!  For US customers, shipping is now free on all orders over $35 in our Etsy Shop. For Canadian customers, you're better off on our website, where orders ship free over $60.


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