Wild Colours - Exciting colours from Natural Dyes
1) Biology of Goldenrod
2) Growing Goldenrod
3) Harvesting Goldenrod
4) Dyeing with Goldenrod
Biology of Goldenrod
Goldenrod is a hardy perennial and a bushy plant, native to North America but well established in Europe. It grows to 1.5m and produces golden inflorescences with hundreds of tiny clustered flowers from September to October. The flowers produce heavy and sticky pollen that is sometimes unfairly blamed for causing hay fever but which is mainly carried by insects rather than spread by the wind.
Goldenrod needs little attention and it is easy to propagate from existing plants. Carefully choose the place where you want it to grow, as an established clump can be very hard to dig up and move.
Collect the young flowers when they are about to open, for clear bright yellows, as older flowers do not have much dye.
Dyeing with Goldenrod
Goldenrod produces quite light-fast primrose yellows on wool. Use the flowers soon after picking them, as dried flowers do not produce a good colour. If your flowers are ready and you do not have any mordanted fibres, you can freeze the dye liquor in a well-marked container.
Use 50 to 100g of fresh flowers per 100g of mordanted wool. Dean recommends keeping the water just below simmer for an hour for bright yellows. You can sometimes achieve a more intense colour by adding a small amount of soda ash (and therefore increasing the pH) at the end of the dyeing period.