We usually think about harvesting in terms of food, but fall is a good time of year to gather dye stuffs and wild crafting supplies as well. While out on my bike ride today it hit home that the trees are starting to change color for real and I should probably spend a bit of time each day collecting. Here is today's haul:
A lot of leaves that work when green will also work when red and some that won't work green will work when they turn. The best way to find out what does what and when it does it is to experiment. This collection includes vine maple, golden currant leaves and one mystery leaf from a scruffy little tree that grows out by the river. It is one of the first things to turn red here, has some sort of berry on it-and I have no idea what it is. I refer to it as "misc." on the tags. The acorns do make a dye, but also make a tannin for working with cotton. Which I think I should do more of.
Since the two things I have plenty of are cardboard and newsprint, I use a rather humble flower press to press and preserve the leaves. I cut up the cardboard about 12"x12", which is the size of our newspaper folded in half. The ideal time to collect the leaves is when they are red and still somewhat leathery. They press well this way and last forever. Collecting on a dry day will make life easier also, if the leaves are wet you will need to keep changing out the newspaper until they dry or they mold. I top the stack of paper and leaves with another piece of cardboard and plop a book on top of that. They sit for several weeks and then I store them in shirt boxes (my husband hasn't worn a dress shirt in years-where do all those boxes come from?).
The other items are for ideas I have had over the summer that I will now have time to work on. I have decided (sort of) that while I find whole cloth natural dyes intriguing, what people really want to buy are the eco prints so I don't intend to do much with whole cloth dyes (we will see how long that idea lasts). I brought home some elderberries (which will make a dye to my understanding) to experiment with making ink or watercolor from them. I have no idea where that will lead, but it sounded fun. I scooped up some pine cones that I may do something with at Christmas, or I may just put them in a basket and look at them-not sure.
Remember to be responsible when collecting. If picking seeds or berries only take 10% and leave the rest for our furry friends. Don't cut branches or dig stuff up unless it is part of a landscape task anyway. When in public parks it is ideal to just pick stuff up off the ground. And don't wear wool shoes when collecting, unless you just want to plant Hound's Tongue all over your yard when you get home!
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