Dying With Herbs

Dying With Herbs

Part of Ep. 1301 Gardening and Cooking with Herbs

Larry Schmitt shares the process of dying silks with plants, herbs and other natural products. One can wander through the pantry, the kitchen, the grocery store or the backyard to find ingredients for these dying experiments.

Premiere date: Jul 09, 2005

TRANSCRIPT+
Wisc Gardener Transcript: 

Shelley:
You may have noticed the scarf I've been wearing throughout the program. This was once white and it became gorgeous by being dyed with herbs, just as this one was. This one was actually dyed with the tea herbs we had at Lauri Lee's, in her backyard. I'm with Larry Schmitt and Larry taught me this process of dying silks with plants and herbs. Larry, you've got me addicted.

Larry:
Well, that's great.

Shelley:
It is so fun. Let's talk about the basics and share the fun.

Larry:
Ok. Well, we're going to work with some herb teas today. We have a silk scarf.

Shelley:
Why silk? I tried cotton, I wasn't impressed.

Larry:
The silk is a protein fiber. Protein fibers resist the decomposition, which is part of the dying process with this technique.

Shelley:
Ok.

Larry:
Then we're going to use some wire.

Shelley:
Silk we can get at a lot of craft shops.

Larry:
Yes. These scarves are made for people who are interested in working with dyes.

Shelley:
Like us. Then, as you said, herbs, plants, herb teas, I've done green teas, the sky's the limit.

Larry:
Yeah.

Shelley:
You've even done some with dirt.

Larry:
Yes.

Shelley:
Ok.

Larry:
We’ll have to talk about that.

Shelley:
Then you said metal.

Larry:
Metal, we need some metal.

Shelley:
All sorts of choices.

Larry:
Right. Copper or steel are good places to start.

Shelley:
Ok. That's because they react with--

Larry:
They react with vinegar, which is the other ingredient.

Shelley:
Ok. Let's work on this one and we'll talk through it as we go.

Larry:
So we have these herb tea bags here, and it's up to you whether you just want to leave the bags as
they are or if you want to rip them open and sprinkle it out. I'm going to leave them just as they
are. And I brought some chilli powder. We're going to add some chilli powder.

Shelley:
So, really again, this is experimental. I can wander through the pantry, the kitchen, the grocery
store, any place, the backyard.

Larry:
Right. And it's a good way to clean out your pantry.

Shelley:
Or get rid of some of those herb teas you don't like.

Larry:
You're right.

Shelley:
Well, avocado pits I've tried, those are fun. Red cabbage is great.

Larry:
Yes. This is a big scarf, so I'm folding it in half and I'm going to roll it up. That's another variable, however you choose to roll it up is going to add to the design.

Shelley:
So, by the way you roll it, you can change the pattern and the way the impressions are made as well.

Larry:
Right.

Shelley:
Ok.

Larry:
I'm just going to roll it up into a little ball.

Shelley:
In addition to using copper or steel wire, you said old nails, old pennies.

Larry:
Right, even those copper and brass trinkets that you have or trivets and candlesticks, you could
wrap your scarf around that.

Shelley:
Ok. I haven't tried that yet. Here's the simple part to me. There is no dye vat, it's just a bag.

Larry:
No, we're just going to put it in a bag.

Shelley:
And then labeling is good, especially if you want to try to duplicate what you made.

Larry:
Right, yes.

Shelley:
Although--

Larry:
I don't always bother to keep notes.

Shelley:
Well, sometimes you can't duplicate it no matter how hard you try. You tell me when on the vinegar.

Larry:
You don't need very much, a couple tablespoons, a quarter cup, that's plenty.

Shelley:
I use cider vinegar a lot, but you can even use leftover red wine.

Larry:
Right and fruit juices, anything that's in the back of your refrigerator.

Shelley:
Ok, great. I've got some cleaning to do. Then it sits in here for two weeks.

Larry:
Right.

Shelley:
Now you gave me a suggestion, which I learned the hard way, put it in the bucket so it doesn't
leak all over the kitchen counter.

Larry:
Right. Whether you store it in the kitchen or put it out on the deck, or on your porch, or in the
basement.

Shelley:
Someplace where, if it does leak, you don’t have to worry. These have been sitting here for two weeks, so lets open up one of those. Why don't we do it in the basin here so we don't make a mess.

Larry:
Right. Let's see what we've got. Dillweed.

Shelley:
Dillweed, steel–

Larry:
And there's some green tea.

Shelley:
Ok. Wow look at the difference already.

Larry:
I like to put on a rubber glove because--

Shelley:
You don't want brown fingers.

Larry:
Yes.

Shelley:
I tend to forget it. I was playing with dying with walnuts, and then I realized I probably should have had a glove on.

Larry:
Right, yeah.

Shelley:
Basically, you’re going to unroll all the plant material out of here.

Larry:
Looking very interesting.

Shelley:
Wow, look at the colors on this.

Larry:
We’re just going to open it up and pull out whatever’s on the inside.

Shelley:
Kind of shake it away from you.

Larry:
Shake it out. Ooh, look at that.

Shelley:
Look at the patterning. I’m backing up! After you’ve shaken this, you basically put it someplace where it’s not going to get wet and let it dry for about two weeks.

Larry:
Yes, we let it dry. Just leaving it for two weeks, without doing anything to it is going to help the color to set.

Shelley:
It’s going to set more.

Larry:
Yeah.

Shelley:
You’ve got one here that you actually took out yesterday.

Larry:
Yes.

Shelley:
So it’s still all kind of wrinkled and it still smells like vinegar. What was this one done with, Larry? This is gorgeous.

Larry:
That was done with eucalyptus.

Shelley:
Wow. So after two weeks, then we wash them.

Larry:
Then we can wash them and then we can iron them.

Shelley:
Then they really look gorgeous.

Larry:
Yes.

Shelley:
Let’s look at some of your finished ones.

Larry:
Ok.

Shelley:
Well, as Larry and I said, this is addictive and it’s a wonderful way to create and play with your plants. These, however, were dyed with dirt. These two, blueberries. This one, dill. And look at this one. This is herb tea. Isn’t that beautiful. This one is palma granite. And avocado. So the sky really is the limit. Go ahead and just try anything you’d like. For more information on this and any of the topics we’ve discussed today, check out our web site at wpt.org/garden. I’m Shelley Ryan, thanks for joining me on “The Wisconsin Gardener.”

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