Reviewed by Valerie Rogotzke, Master Gardener
The internet is a blessing and a curse; while there’s a lot of information at the ready, much of it can be misleading. Such is the case for natural dyeing! Instead of looking to Pinterest ideas or Facebook posts, turn to books from the most experienced dyers when getting started.
For an excellent introduction to natural dyeing, look no further than Jenny Dean’s book Wild Color, Revised and Updated Edition: The Complete Guide to Making and Using Natural Dyes (2010). This book begins with the techniques and tools of natural dyes—how to prepare woolen fabrics versus how to prepare cotton or linen fabrics to receive dyes, how to create dye baths from flowers and other natural materials, how to test the pH levels of a dye bath, and more.
The second portion of the book goes through dozens of the most common plants for natural dyes. For each plant, there are instructions on how best to grow them in your garden, as well as color photographs to illustrate how one plant can produce four or five different colors by tweaking small things in the dye recipes. Some common dye plants in Dean’s book that thrive in Minnesota gardens include dyer’s coreopsis, marigolds, dahlias, and rhubarb. Additionally, some wild dye plants in Dean’s book found in the state are staghorn sumac, buckthorn, Queen Anne’s lace, goldenrod, and tansy. Even dandelions are included!
This book contains everything a curious gardener would need to get started. It’s widely available and in print, and the author also maintains a blog with her current dye projects at https://www.jennydean.co.uk.