Snipping My Way To Color

Natural dye material is ready to harvest just about everywhere you turn here in rural northern Wisconsin, where I’m snipping as fast as I can. It’s nice to have a reason to slow down for a bit and enjoy dyeing with a friend.

The angel who started my Japanese indigo last spring came over yesterday morning. We combined leaves snipped from her plants and mine and had a nice visit while the pot warmed gently over a two-hour period. 

After straining out the leaves, shifting the pH and aerating the liquid, we had another hour to visit while the vat reduced. 


Then in went fabric and yarn. Julie brought some narrow cotton huck that her Mom had saved — the stuff that used to be used on rollers back when public restrooms had cloth towels. We both thought it would make a lovely table runner. Once we saw it on the drying rack it cried “scarf!” Julie will probably wear it when she works with school kids at the community garden to show them a homegrown blue.

Today I had to get back to snipping, since the forecast is for rain the next couple of days. The goldenrod growing over our septic drain field is perfectly not-quite-open right now. I snip off the tops, leaving the shorter side shoots for the bees to enjoy.

The ditch by my house has lots of tansy. I’ve been pulling that invasive species out of my yard for almost 30 years, but there’s plenty to dye with nearby. Most of it should have been snipped a week ago, but you do the best you can.

I walked the ditch the other direction to snip enough mint for a dyepot. And I cut an armfull of yarrow from next to the garden. So I’ll have plenty of fresh material to simmer once the rain comes. 

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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