Monday, October 8, 2012

Harvesting Color -- Bracken

Bracken dye brewed with iron, on cotton rug warp
Bracken fern grows in abundance in my neck of the woods. In September, I brewed up a big batch of bracken dye before I headed off to teach in Denver.

Bracken (left) and staghorn sumac leaves (right)
I find that giving a stained dyebath some extra time to sit in an aluminum pot can help brighten colors. I also find that I should tape a label to the pot lid, because my loose notes got mixed up and I can't swear to what kind of dyebath I used for a couple of things. The one at the top I know is the second simmer of a bracken bath in which I added some rusty nails to get that dark gray.

Merino top in bracken (?) dyebath
I'm only 90 percent certain this was the first dyebath extracted from that bracken. Oops.

Natural dye sampler workshop at Sievers' Gathering
Anyway. There's a good stand of bracken outside one of the studios at Sievers, so I cut enough to brew a pot for a short natural dye workshop I taught as part of the biennial Gathering the last weekend in September. The school is on Washington Island, and being surrounded by Lake Michigan has a huge influence on their weather. While the bracken at home was showing definite signs of frost and freeze, there was fresher stuff at Sievers.

Naturally dyed silk scarves
 In a 4-hour sampling workshop, there's not much time to take pictures. But trust me, students did some beautiful silk scarves, some of which were dyed with that bracken brew.

Unwrapping cold-bundled silk samples
They also unwrapped some silk I cold-bundled before I left for Denver so these students could swap swatches.

Students' sample cards for cold-bundled hops, bracken, Virginia creeper and willow leaves
 The second column from the left in this photo includes bracken leaves. I'm 90 percent sure the brew I basted some of the bundles with was bracken, too. The students got the idea, and probably learned to keep better records than I do!

Frozen bracken for winter dyeing
 In September, I "put up" enough bracken in the freezer to make several dyebaths. I'll try to do a better job of recording and photographing bracken when I brew those. Where did I put that tape?

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