I’m Dye-ing to be a Pioneer Woman!

Dateline: November 12, 2010*

Surprisingly, the red fruits of the sumac created a light gold color when used as dye

I dyed four linen napkins today using four different native plants to use as samples for an outreach program we (The Pine Lily Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society) are doing at the Osceola County Historical Society‘s Pioneer Village & Museum on Saturday for their 19th Annual Pioneer day.  Pioneer women didn’t have it easy.  I’m exhausted.  HA!

I gathered leaves from wax myrtle (Myrica cerifera), berries from winged sumac (Rhus copallinum), roots from Carolina Redroot (Lachnanthes caroliana) and leaves with buds from Grounsel tree (Baccharis halimifolia).  The subtle color shade differences are apparent when placed next to an original white napkin and each other.  They are actually very pretty hues but quite subdued.

Redroot not only has an interesting growth habit, the root is used as a natural dye

Since I live so far from a store, I didn’t use any mordant as suggested in many internet sites with tips on natural dyes, but these turned out ok.  I’m not sure that they won’t run if washed, but for my purpose they turned out just fine.  It also was suggested to use a non-metal pot, but that was all I have, so I used it.
Wax Myrtle aka Bayberry leaves dye linen a pale yellow

The wax myrtle, also known as bayberry, produced a pale yellow, redroot is a tan leaning towards light rootbeer coloring.  The sumac came out a light shade of gold and the groundsel a light, light yellow-green.

For each one I gathered the leaves or fruits and boiled them for about an hour or so until the liquid looked colorful.  I strained the liquid into a container and placed the napkin in while the liquid was still hot.  Each one sat for about 30 minutes or so and then I hung them outside on the patio to dry (not in the sun though).  The house smelled somewhat funky for a while, but I had the windows open and the vent fans going since it was suggested that when experimenting to use adequate ventilation.

groundsel leaves and buds produce a extra pale yellow-green

After I strained out the sumac berries, I took them and put them on top of my platform bird feeder which remains empty at this time of year.  I had a few interested visitors for the late evening snack.

It was a fun experiment and I await the reactions at Saturday’s event to my latest creation from my beautiful wildlife garden.

*This tale was originally published by Loret T. Setters on November 12, 2010 at the defunct national blog beautifulwildlifegarden[dot]com. Click the date to view reader comments.

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