Storing Natural Dye Materials

Where snow cover and freezing temps are the norm for four or five months, you have to plan ahead to use local natural dye materials in the winter. I dry some things, press leaves for ecoprinting, and store bags of fresh willow leaves, rhubarb leaves and other materials in the freezer.

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This time of year, porches all over rural northern Wisconsin are used as giant freezers. It’s quicker to cool a pot of soup outside than in the fridge when it’s this cold (20 below here this morning). And that’s a good thing it’s cold right now, because all the frozen natural dye materials I had stored in my freezer are on my porch now.

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I had to make room in the freezer for meat after we got our share from neighbors who just butchered.

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So this week I’ve been brewing dyebaths.

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And starting more alkaline extraction experiments.

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And doing some cold bundle experiments with thawed and dry materials.

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It’s not helping my spring fever, though, when simmering leaves make the house smell like rhubarb.

I’ve reduced the amount of materials so it now fits in one ice chest. If necessary, I could probably keep that cold on the concrete floor of the unheated part of Bill’s shop. I’ve kept fresh willow out there as late as mid-June by wrapping it in old blankets and keeping the doors shut.

But I’m starting to think about digging a root cellar. What do you think?

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Donna Kallner

fiber artist, teacher and explorer, inspired by ancient fiber techniques and all the ways contemporary fiber artists give old ideas a new spin

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