Harvest: Unexpected Projects Using 47 Extraordinary Garden Plants (Ten Speed Press, 2017), by Stefani Bittner and Alethea Harampolis is a guide to 47 projects that can be done using unexpected plants. These projects include beauty products, fragrances, cocktails, and more. The following excerpt is from Chapter 1, "Early."
Making dyes from your garden is a wonderful way to preserve the season's colors in your textiles. Unlike commercial dyes that use harsh and toxic chemicals, your homemade organic dye is safe and natural. The natural dye process is quite easy, and once you have given it a try, your eyes will be opened to more of your garden's colorful possibilities!
When used as a natural dye, blueberries create the most beautiful range of summery blues and purples, like the color of your favorite faded blue jeans. Hues range from periwinkle to pastel blue, magenta, and deep purple. Good enough to eat, this dye will stain your hands, so be sure to wear gloves while working. Blueberry dye creates a color that's perfect for napkins.
Fabric and Fixative
• 1/2 cup table salt
• 8 cups water
• 6 white 100 percent cotton or linen napkins
• 2-1/2 cups fresh blueberries
• 4 cups water
Preparing the Fabric
1) To prepare the fabric to accept the dye, mix the salt and water in a large stockpot and set over medium heat.
2) Add the napkins and allow to simmer for 30 minutes.
3) Remove the fabric, let cool to the touch, and wring it out. You'll be adding the wet fabric to the dye, so set aside.
Preparing the Dye
1) To prepare the dye, in a large pot combine the blueberries and water and bring to a boil. Simmer for 1 hour. Or, to achieve a darker color, continue to simmer the blueberries for 2 to 3 hours.
2) When the water is cool enough to touch, remove the blueberries from the dye using a strainer or your hands. (Make sure you're wearing gloves!)
3) Add the wet fabric to the dye and simmer for about an hour for deep color. Remember that wet fabric always looks darker until it is rinsed and wrung out.
4) Remove the fabric from the dye bath, rinse it with cold water until the water runs clear, wring it out, and hang to dry. Remember that the dye will drip from the fabric as it dries, so hang it in an appropriate place to avoid staining.
Reprinted with permission from Harvest, by Stefani Bittner and Alethea Harampolis, copyright © 2017, published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Photographs copyright © 2017 by David Fenton.