Natural Dye Workshop

I have taken several natural dye workshops because…it takes a long time for things to really sink in? I need a lot of immersions before the information really takes?? Anyway,

Kelsie Doty

Kelsie Doty, the instructor for the Cornell Botanic Gardens Natural Dye Workshop, was able to communicate with us in a way that both conveyed enthusiasm for the craft and was extremely practical. Probably because she is a PhD student in apparel design at Cornell University (love living in a town with a land-grant college).



We all walked away with an excellent handout and a recommendation for a book –  Dyes from American Native Plants – that is so arcane and natural dye/fangirlish I immediately bought it.

The cloth had already been mordanted (is that a word?) with aluminum sulfate, which prepares the cloth to bond with the dye. The plants were already boiling in pots as well, so all we had to do was design and dye. We had multiple colors available, including yellow from marigolds, blue from indigo, and red from madder root.

We also had various supplies to shibori dye.


The Japanese have a  different name for each shibori  technique,
which if I used I might  erroneously give the impression I know what I’m talking about. One is the binding technique we call tie-dye.


Chevron shibori pattern

Another technique involves precise folding. I tried the chevron pattern, but could no more fold it properly than I can origami. Still came out great.







Here’s another example, this time using shapes bound into the cloth to make a pattern.


Gonna say we were all pretty damn pleased with ourselves, and most of us eager to try it on our own. If you read my pages, you may know we grew an excess of zinnias this year, and there are bags and bags in the freezer awaiting a dyeing attempt.

After the class, my friend and I explored the “Quiet Labor” exhibit featuring naturally dyed textiles, garments and artwork by students and local artists who contribute to the Cornell Natural Dye Studio. The idea is to encourage students who may someday work in the fashion industry to consider the fact that chemical dyes are the second largest polluter of waterways globally. I particularly liked the non-clothing items.

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