Tool Tips For Natural Dyeing

Lately, I’ve moved a few underused appliances out of the kitchen and into the studio. And I’m kicking myself for waiting this long.

Dehydrating willow leaves to grind.

The dehydrator won’t be missed in the kitchen. I just never got in the habit of using it there. But in the studio, it didn’t take long to decide it’s invaluable. I’ve been using it to dry willow leaves, which I then use an old coffee grinder to turn into a coarse powder. And that’s just the start.

Homemade tannin powder from sumac leaves.

I did the same with sumac leaves to make my own tannin powder. I store the powdered leaves in recycled cookie tins with some recycled desiccant packages tucked inside.

Osage orange root bark ground for natural dye.

The coffee grinder also got used recently to process osage orange bark for natural dye. Several years ago, I picked up some roots from a road construction project at a friend’s farm. I peeled off the loose bark to grind, and got the lovely, vibrant yellow you see on the strip of silk in the photo above.

Meat grinder used for acorns and barks.

The last time I used my hand-cranked meat grinder for meat must have been in the last century. In the studio, though, I’m using it regularly for grinding acorns, again for tannin powder, and other barks for dye. Over the winter, there are quite a few ideas I want to explore using ground willow and white pine barks.

Mullein leaf dried and ground for medicinal tea.

Since these tools moved into the studio, I have broken one of my cardinal rules — that studio equipment never again gets used for food preparation. I dried and ground white willow bark for a medicinal tea, then did the same with mullein leaves. Those, I put back into the dryer after grinding to make sure they were truly dry so they wouldn’t mold in the tin.

That’s something I never did when the dehydrator lived in the kitchen!

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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

2 thoughts on “Tool Tips For Natural Dyeing”

  1. Please do not use mullein tea. Verbascum thapsus contains the chemical rotenone, an insecticide. Rotenone is suspected of causing Parkinson’s Disease. Check on the plants that grow beside your mullein. I think mullein roots cause other plants to mutate.

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