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Review: Harvesting Color


First, the facts:

Title: Harvesting Color: How to Find Plants and Make Natural Dyes

Author: Rebecca Burgess

Published by: Artisan, 2011

Pages: 180

Type: Text.


Part 1: Getting Started
1. The Gatherer, Gardener, and Dye Maker
2. Materials and Tools of the Trade
3. Master Dye Recipes
Part 2: The Seasons
4. Summer
5. Fall
6. Winter
7. Spring

Harvesting Color

The In-Depth Look:

I know, this seems an odd book for me to get, considering I don’t dye my own yarns, but it was so gorgeous, I couldn’t resist.

And when I say gorgeous … my very first comment to you is that this book has some of the most beautiful photographs. Many of them showing a picture of the plant alongside a finished yarn dyed from it. That alone is interesting, since some of the dyes look nothing like what you’d expect to come from a plant that color. And it makes it so, so nice to browse through.

The author starts by evoking the history of dyeing. “The cave paintings of Lascaux, the red woven strands of Native American basketry, and the bright fuchsia tones of Aztec cotton robes all attest to the eternal desire to express ourselves through the use of color. In fact, it seems as if natural dye processes are as ancient as the origins of human creativity. For thousands of years, the art and craft of natural dyeing has connected our creative urges with the inner workings of the natural world.

She follows this by discussing how much better it is for the environment when we not only use natural dyes, but when we use the ones we can find in our own backyard.

The book begins with instructions on how to gather your dye sources and how to use them. She goes into specific detail about the etiquette of gathering sources from private and public lands (something which I’ve been curious about), and she also talks about planting Dye-Gardens and frankly, as a person who lives in a townhouse with no garden and who spends very little time outdoors in the sun, I found this entire section fascinating.

Then, of course, there are details about fiber and how to dye, and what kind of mordants to use … all useful but fairly straight-forward stuff.

But that is followed with the real reason we’re all here–the plants themselves.

The rest of the book is divided by seasons … the time of year you can harvest each plant. And each is helpfully accompanied by a map of North America with the local region highlighted. The plants are shown in their natural, growing state, and there are pictures of the portions you use to dye, and what the finished yarn will look like (with or without mordants).

Really, there is a ton of information in this beautiful book. (I DID mention how darn pretty the whole thing is, right? Because it bears repeating.) There are even a couple knitting patterns (and by “a couple,” I counted four–one for each season).

Overall? Lovely book that almost makes me want to dye. You can get your copy at Amazon.com.

Want to see bigger pictures? Click here.

My Gush: So pretty to look at, it almost makes me want to dye.

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