Falling into a new look at color


Who would ever think that a green lichen would produce pink and purple dyes? Not me! Photo: Joe Coca.

Time for transformation

Last week I got away to Maine, where the maple leaves currently range from almost-turning to head-turning. Here in Colorado, the aspen leaves turn a lovely shade of gold, but there is nothing like the nearly neon colors that maple trees produce at this time of year. Looking at those same trees in June, when the leaves are uniformly green, you would never think they had such hidden depths.

Hidden Hues
Apparently everyone knows about fall foliage, but color transformations abound in nature and fiber all year long—and the latest issue of Colorways finds them everywhere. While "leaf-peeping," you might not give much thought to the funny and inconspicuous black, green, or white lichens forming on stone walls or trees. You might be surprised to know that some of those lichens contain hidden sources of color—and not just mousy browns and yellows, either. Some ordinary-looking lichens create vivid shades of orange, purple, and magenta. In "Lichens: Algae + Fungi = Color!" Glenna Dean describes how to dye with lichens (and how to gather them sustainably).


When fabric emerges from an indigo dyebath, the transformation isn't complete. You can watch it turn from green to blue before your eyes! Photo by Dagmar Klos.

From Green to Indigo
Indigo is all about transformation; even when you understand the chemistry, it seems amazing that blue dye should come from green plants (and a green dyebath). This issue of Colorways takes an in-depth look at indigo traditions and techniques. Indigo is the only naturally occurring colorfast dye, but that one dye is found in plants throughout the world: woad, añil, and dyer's knotweed, to name just a few. Whether you want to start your own indigo vat or prefer to enjoy its indigenous applications from around the world, you'll find photographs and videos that bring indigo to life.


Overdyeing can change more than the hue of a textile—it can change the mood, unite different elements, and bring it to life. Photo by Joe Coca.

The Magic Dyebath
Of course, there are times when you wish a project would transform itself—if you have yarn, fabric, or fiber whose color you'd like to wave away with a magic wand—you can help the process along. In her article on overdyeing, Sara Lamb demonstrates how a dip in the right dyebath can give new life to an unloved project. She offers instruction for selecting an overdye color and surprising before-and-after examples.

As the seasons change, join us and take a fresh look at color with Colorways. (Me? I did a little overdyeing—my hair is now the color of a maple leaf in late October.)

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