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Harvesting Color: How to Find Plants and Make Natural Dyes Paperback – 5 Jul 2011

4.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Artisan Division of Workman Publishing (5 July 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1579654258
  • ISBN-13: 978-1579654252
  • Product Dimensions: 20.3 x 1.6 x 25.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 544,852 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Rebecca Burgess is a teacher and natural dye artisan who has worked for more than ten years creating recipes from local flora. She teaches natural dye workshops throughout the country, to crafters, ecologists, and art students, as well as to apparel giants like Levi Strauss. Rebecca is also the founder of EcologicalArts, an organization dedicated to creating, revitalizing, and teaching functional art forms that utilize natural raw materials. She lives in San Geronimo, California.


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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I love the idea , but there are many more books with more information.This is a story of an experience in natural dying.
Could be very exiting if you approach dyeing for the first time.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Bought this for my wife. As it is American, some of the plants may not be available in the UK.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars 53 reviews
74 of 74 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Practical Guide to Identifying, Gathering, and Using Natural Dye Plants 23 July 2011
By Lynne E. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
What sets this book apart from other books on natural dyeing is the extensive information on where to find the plants (gardens, farmer's markets, fields, forests), and on when and how to harvest the plants. But the book also includes complete, illustrated instructions on how to dye wool fiber and yarn using inexpensive, easy-to-find equipment, and many, many recipes for making natural dyes from specific plants.

The book is divided into two parts: Part One includes a brief historical discussion of gatherers and dyers, describes necessary materials and tools for natural dyeing, and sets out a "master dye bath" and other general recipes for dyeing. In this part, the author cautions that national and state parks have strict no-harvest rules. However, she notes that national forests allow harvesting for personal use, that water and open-space districts will often grant harvesting permits, and that other sources for harvesting plants exist. The author also explains that she has included no recipes for tin, chrome, or copper-powder mordants (mordants bind the dye and fabric tightly), because widespread discarding of the metallic leftover dye water could quickly lead to unhealthy concentrations of these toxic metals in local soil. Clearly, the author is highly dedicated to the cause of environmental preservation, but her informative text is gentle in tone, and neither preaches nor communicates any "eco-politically correct" sense of superiority.

Part Two, which makes up the bulk of the book, describes the individual dye plants, and is organized by the four harvesting seasons. Each plant has its own mini-section, which includes (1) a U.S. map colored in to show where the plant grows, (2) the Latin name, (3) a brief general description of the plant's history and characteristics, (4) specific instructions on finding the plant, (5) instructions on harvesting it, (6) a dye recipe tailored to the plant, (7) a clear photograph of the living plant, and (8) a photograph of a skein of yarn dyed with the plant. The beautiful full-color photographs should enable most people to recognize the plants in the wild, and to be reasonably sure of what colors to expect in the dyed yarn.

The complete list of plants is: Summer (hollyhock, ironweed, Mexican cliffrose, big basin sagebrush, zinnia, desert rhubarb, rabbitbrush, rosea, coyote brush, Japanese indigo, elderberry, goldenrod, tickseed sunflower); Fall (pokeweed, black walnut, trembling aspen, staghorn sumac, mountain mahogany, white sage, curly dock, sorrel); Winter (toyon, coffee berry, madder root, prickly pear cactus, cochineal insects, tansy); Spring (cota, sticky monkey flower, horsetail, fennel, California sagebrush, French broom).

Although I have only a casual interest in actually dyeing my own yarn, this is a book that I'm delighted to own, and to have on my knitting reference shelf. I rate it at 5 stars.
55 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing Book on Plants and Natural Dyes 12 May 2011
By Birdsong L. Sundstrom - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Rebecca Burgess' new book is an outgrowth of over a decade's worth of teaching natural plant dyeing and advocating for a more environmentally-friendly manner of creating our clothing. She worked on the book at the same time that she was 'living' the Fibershed Project, with the goal of only wearing clothing made from products within a 150-mile radius of her Marin County, California home for one year. The book contains information about unique California native plants, such as toyon and coffeeberry, and the dye colors that they produce, but it is far more than simply a California guide. It covers dye plants with a long history, such as indigo, and new methods to obtain stunning colors from plants such as pokeberry.

Each featured plant is discussed and accompanied by a photo of the entire plant, often within its native habitat. Information about time to gather, how to cultivate, and parts of the plant to use for dyeing fibers are included, along with generous photos of yarns dyed in the colors obtained from each plant, and a map of the United States highlighting where the particular plant can be found growing in the wild.

Burgess brings her high standard of environmental consciousness into the book, stressing the importance of the choices we make in what we use as both consumers and artists. She discusses mordants (substances used to 'fix', or keep the dye in the fiber or fabric for the long term), and only advocates using materials that are non-toxic, both while in use in the dye process and when the wastes are disposed. She also addresses the benefits of working to source your raw materials close to home, and how involvement with natural dyes can help you help grow a strong local economy.

All technical material is easy to access by the DIYer, the home craftsperson or the professional artist. The book is organized around what is available each of the four seasons, and includes an appropriate project to use your hand-dyed yarns as well.

Paige Green's photography lifts this book into the realm of fine art, with massive amounts of beautiful pictures that highlight the plants, capture the colors dyed with them, and also portray the sense of harmony that Burgess advocates will come from being more connected to local production of our clothing. This book will appeal to many who are already working with fiber arts, and will also attract those who garden, and seek to live in a greener manner.
63 of 66 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not really for the Northeast 4 Mar. 2013
By Kbish - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am a spinner in New England who is looking into dyeing my own yarn. This book looked like it contained some good info about mordanting and afterbaths, and it still does. However, I am disappointed that most of the dye recipes are based on plants found in the Southwest (sometimes almost exclusively in California).

I can still use some of the recipes in this book with the plants in my area and it gives a pretty good explanation about various baths and whatnot. I will use this book as a jumping off point, but I wish that I could use more of the recipes.
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful and Well Written 15 Oct. 2012
By Kindle Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have recently gotten interested in herbal dyeing (as it crosses over from my artistic side to my nature-loving-herb-garden-growing side) and this is my first book to have bought to help me get started on the path of herbal dyeing.

I have to say the pictures are wonderful, the layout is simple, it's well written and everything is explained very well. There are even a few craft projects in here to give you some inspiration on what to do with all that yarn and cotton and everything else you're going to be dyeing.

My only complaint is that it mostly focuses on plants found in the South-west, in California, New Mexico, Arizona, and Nevada. Plants like sagebrush, tumbleweeds, and prickly pear cactus. As I live in the Mid-west, in Ohio, most of the plants in the book don't grow in my area unless you cultivate them, which is not a big deal for some of them, but others really won't do well without a greenhouse. On the other hand, there are plants that you can find everywhere you look up here, like Poke berries, Ironweed, and Goldenrod.

I would still recommend it to anyone interested in getting into herbal dyes, though, since most of the plants can still be planted and grown here.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very crafty and useful 16 Aug. 2013
By jaimie murphy - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book has some pictures. I especially like how there are activities for you to include your children! Everything seems to be laid out very nicely and I look forward to using this book next spring. But I was a little disappointed in the plants listed. About half of them only grow in California. There are plenty of dyers in other parts of the world..
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