I’ve been psyching myself up about dying for some time. I did a quick first pass last Easter with my attempt to resurrect what was left of the food coloring once it had lived out it’s full life as easter egg pigment. The results were a Care-Bear kind of heaven: bright and cheery bursts of color in soft and comforting clouds of yarn.
But I really wanted to dye naturally. I surreptitiously began saving my onion skins. I bought a mega 14oz bag of turmeric powder at the international grocery store without so much as a curry recipe lingering at the peripheral outer-orbit of my mental to do list. I cast furtive and thoughtful glances at the beets, red cabbage and raspberries in the produce aisle.
For Christmas my mother bought me "The Root of Wild Madder" by Brian Murphy, a beautiful and informative book on so many levels about a man’s pursuit of the history and mystery of the Persian carpet. It is beautifully and passionately written; Murphy is unabashedly romantic in his quest but his journalistic background enables him to weave current cultural and political context into his story in way that is neither dull, preachy nor contrived. His search for wild madder, the natural dye used to produce the carpet’s signature shades of red, russet, rust and rose becomes the guiding thread that pulls him (and us) through his journeys in Iran and Afghanistan.
For Christmas I bought myself "Natural Dyeing" by Jackie Crook, this is probably the closest a 15 dollar paperback how-to book could possibly get to a coffee table book. Each page is so beautiful, I was almost content not to bother going to the trouble of doing all the work and just loosing myself in the the glorious shades of color and texture on the page. On each glossy page you see the original producer of the dye, the finished result, clear how-to instructions with handy tips and a spectrum of the varied results depending on the mordant used. Most of the dyes are readily found at the supermarket (avocados! who knew?)
And yet, it was George Washington Carver who ultimately did me in.
More on that in the July issue of Black Purl Magazine.