Wild & Gathered dyes
Left: Wood shavings of Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium) stem and root, ready for dye bath
Right: Test results, on silk and cotton, of dye extracted from cones of coast redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens)
Along with producing dyes without the need for mordants, Oregon grape is known to disable mechanisms of bacterial resistance to medications and fight against syphilis. Good for infections and the liver. I left this root out a bit too long and it dried, but freshly collected, peel away the bark with your nail and it’ll reveal a bright yellow the color of turmeric (more on turmeric later!). For ethical harvesting, gather the horizontal roots.
Indigenous Californians are known to have used Redwood bark for dyeing fishnets and leather hides, but while Cyrus and I were making pine needle tea (good for colds, decongestant, Vits) I noticed as soon as the little cones hit the hot water, they bled a deep red color. This memory cropped up when I was trying to think of a good, natural red dye. Turns out, the cones work better than the outer red bark (atleast in my experiments, maybe they used the heartwood?). Either way, redwood cones are an easy, sustainable harvest with a built-in mordant: tannic acid.
Rediscovering a small portion of the ancient arts and skills that the California indigenous used for thousands of years will take many, many experiments. Today, we launched ancestralarts.net; look forward to my updates about dyeing with items you’d normally compost, spices, plants, mushrooms, and lichens. Snake print tie-dyes and beautiful batiks made from personally harvested native plants.