The Magic of Marigolds

Now that it's almost May, many of us are enjoying the floral bounty that arrives with spring and awaiting the new blooms that will come with summer. While flowers in bloom are a delight to behold, their beauty can last even longer when they're used to dye fiber. In fact, as natural dyer extraordinaire Dagmar Klos writes in her post, one of the most common and inexpensive flowers (at leats in the U.S.) you can buy this spring doubles as a wonderful dye. (And if you're interested in coloring your world with natural dyes, make sure to check out Dagmar's wonderful new video workshops on the subject.)—Christina 

We had a long, cold, snowy winter here in Chicago. Finally, the days are getting longer and warmer. There is that hint of green to the trees appearing, when you know that spring is most definitely on its way. Daffodils and crocuses are in bloom and my thoughts are turning to the garden. Mine is mostly a shade garden due to the amount of trees on my property which includes a large, old willow.


  French Marigolds
  French marigolds are not only beautiful when in
bloom, they also can be used to dye fabrics many
lovely shades of yellow and go
ld. Photo by Fir0002 

But I do have a small area that sees sunshine daily, this is where my marigolds grow. I have become enamored with marigolds; they are happy little yellow/orange flowers. The French marigold is the variety that I favor. They are easy to grow, low maintenance, relatively pest free. Sweet little plants to gaze upon throughout the growing season, patiently waiting, knowing that once the season is over, the fun begins to see just how much color they will yield.

My fascination with marigold started in the usual way. I harvested some marigolds, placed them in a dye pot with some water and slowly began heating them for about 30 minutes. Color emerged, always thrilling. Now it was time to add mordanted fiber, but first I pulled the marigolds out. I use 5 gallon paint strainers in the dye pots when extracting color from raw dyestuffs. Easy to use and no concerns with getting raw dyestuff stuck on fiber, especially wool.

As I pulled out the strainer filled with spent marigold flowers and placed it into an empty dyepot, I wondered to myself if there was any color left in the flowers. I added fresh water and started the heating process again. Lo and behold, more color! So I went through the extraction process again. This time the color was more of a yellow instead of the brassy golden color of the first extraction.

In addition to seeing how many times I could extract color from spent marigolds, I was also trying to see how many exhaust baths I could do before there was no color left, but the only thing that stopped me was running out of mordanted wool. Each time yielded a slightly different yellow or gold color.

Soon I’ll be heading out to buy marigolds for my garden. While they are growing, I’ll be busy mordanting yarn, so I can be ready to harvest all that wonderful color! Perhaps you might want to give marigolds a try, too. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

—Dagmar Klos

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