You know summer has arrived when all the gorgeous dye flowers are in full bloom.
Many pigments used in natural dyeing are found in the flowers of dye plants, for example marigold, coreopsis, cosmos and dyer's chamomile, all of which you may have grown as part of our seed & sweater grow along.
Harvesting flowers for dyeing is quick and easy, just snip of snap off the flower heads once they have completely opened, but before they look too sad and droopy. Take care to look after any wildlife that may have found a new home in your dye plants, ladybirds for example are big fans of dyer's chamomile and you will often find their larvae on the underside of the flowers, so just make sure to check each flower before you snip it off. It's also always good practise to leave a few flowers in place for bees and other insects and if you wish to try seed saving later in the summer. Saving seeds from many dye plants is straightforward, simply allow the flower to completely bloom and dry up on the plant, remove the seeds and store then in small envelopes in a dry place over winter.
To preserve your harvested flowers for dyeing simply dry the flowers out. If you have a greenhouse they should dry out in a few days, but a sunny windowsill will also do the job. We recommend storing your dried flowers in paper bags to prevent any remaining moisture from causing fungal growth, however you can of course store them in a glass jar if you are very certain your flowers are dried thoroughly. It's also best to store your dye materials away from direct sunlight to preserve as much of the pigments as possible. Most dye materials will store well in this condition for several months and longer!
For certain dye plants, most notably woad, the pigment is actually stored in the leaves of the plant and rapidly disappears when the plant starts to flower in the second year. Woad leaves need to be used fresh for dyeing, so watch out for another blog post and video describing this process later in the year.
Check out our YouTube video with further information about harvesting you dye flowers and stay tuned on social media to find out about the dyeing phase of Seed to Sweater.