Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Natural Dyeing with Weld (Reseda luteola)

Hope all of you are doing well.  I have had some ups and downs lately. But mostly ups. I want to focus on the garden because it is what makes me happy. I think gardening can be very therapeutic. After I take time to weed in the sun it always seems I'm in such a better mood. So if you can, I suggest at least once a week getting out there and touching the soil. The plants can process all of that negative energy and give you back good. At least hat is what I have heard.

What is growing in my garden you ask? Well, I will tell you!  Right now the Weld (Reseda luteola) is going nuts. It is growing taller than me (as in 6 feet high!). The weld is a historic dye plant that gives a VIBRANT yellow. It is actually very close to fluorescent yellow. I love growing it. At first I had a lot of problems and then one day a seed germinated and burst into an amazing flowering plant in the first year. This is unusual, since it is considered a biennial, meaning flowering in the second year it is alive. I think in California it grows a bit differently. We have a very long growing period and can provide as much water as it needs. However, since the tap root is so long, I think it may need less watering!

We are in a historic drought in California, but we have had an epic El Nino season of rain, so that helped tremendously with watering and establishing baby plants. You may not know this but its very difficult to transplant a Weld plant. The tap root is very long and powerful. Disturbing the taproot can cause great ditress and even death if you transplant while it is maturing. I suggest direct seeding it where you want it and not moving it. Make sure the plant is in full sun and has plenty of water in the beginning. I have slowed down in my watering and the plants in my garden are now slow to release flower stalks. However, at the AVFKW store, where I water with waste water, the plants are continuing to flower and are more like a hydra - with many flower stalks shooting every which way!

To dye with Weld, you can use the leaves, flowers, and stalk. From my dye tests the color is most vibrant on a non superwash wool with an alum mordant. It is also great for eco printing. Kristine recently used the leaves on a shirt and the definition was incredible!

I suggest planting the Weld in the ground, but a larger container works great too. I have noticed they can grow in smaller containers but the plant size reflects its area of growth. I have mine in the ground at my house and they grow up to 6 feet high. At the store in the backyard, they grow in a 2 feet deep container and are more bushy than tall, growing to be 4 feet tall but 4 feet wide as well!

Harvest the Weld just as the tiny flowers open up. If you wait too long the stalk becomes more woody and the seeds develop quickly. The seeds are tiny, so you might want to put the seed heads in a paper bag to dry and capture all the seeds. The seeds are as big as poppy seeds on a bagel. The good thing is you'll have seeds for next year. I can cut the Weld back to about 8" and still have more flower stalks develop through the Summer. With this method, you can increase your harvest. I plan to harvest the weld at least three times in the AVFKW dye a garden. So far the plants in my front yard are less resilient to the harvesting. This maybe because of the lack of watering.

Above you can see the dye results from the weld leaves and flowers in front of the weld jar. From left to right, silk ribbon, sw merino, 100% alpaca, 100% wool, all mordanted with Alum.

To plant Weld from seed, distribute the seed on top of moist soil and lightly dust the surface with more soil to cover the seeds. Water the area by misting so the seeds don't float away. I start planting Weld as early as March in Oakland, CA. Water daily to keep seeds moist so they germinate. The leaves are long and sword-like and grow in a rosette pattern. If you are lucky the plant will start shooting up the flower stalk in a few months.

We sell Weld seeds in packs of 50 at the AVFKW store, so you can get started, right away!

Happy Gardening and Dyeing!

Friday, April 29, 2016

Growing, Gathering, and Dyeing with Plants - May 22nd

Growing, Gathering, and Dyeing with Plants - May 22nd

Instructor: Adrienne Rodriguez

Discover natural dyeing and its wide world of color. Throughout time, the craft of natural dyeing has been created and upheld by cultures around the world, from South America to India. Now is your chance to become part of the tradition. Explore which types of plants you can grow and gather that can be used in the dyeing process.
This class will prepare you for natural dyeing on protein (animal) fibers.

In this class, you will learn:

- How to create a dye garden, what plants to grow and how many
- How to use whole plants to create a wide variety of color
- How to harvest and store plants for dyeing
- Yarn and fiber preparation which will include helpful tips for a successful end product with emphasis on colorfastness
- Mordanting with alum for protein fibers (these are fibers that come from animals) to achieve colorfast results
- Extraction of color from plants for dyeing
- Techniques for dyeing yarn samples
- Resources for continued learning

You will leave class with a colorful array of naturally dyed yarn samples.
No experience required! Kids welcome (aged 9+ years old)

Materials included: yarn samples, various dyestuffs
Materials Required: rubber gloves
  Class is held on our outside patio.  Please dress for comfort, crafting, and weather conditions, bring sunscreen!
1 session / 3 hours
Cost: $75 with 24 hour advance reservation / $85 walk-in

Date: Sunday, May 22nd
Time: 1 pm - 4 pm