In A Garden to Dye For (St. Lynn’s, 2014), Chris McLaughlin teaches you how to make the most of your garden by harvesting different plants to create your own clothing dyes. She walks you through each type of plant, explaining where the color comes from and how best to get it for yourself. In the following excerpt, she shows you how to use common marigolds to make spectacular yellow dyes.
Although the word “marigold” is in calendula’s common name, it’s not related to the other popular marigolds of the Tagates persuasion. Which is why we plant people spend our lives memorizing pretentious botanical plant names. Although I do favor one of its common names, “Poet’s marigold.” I can only presume that this came from Shakespeare’s references to calendula in his works (but that’s a different book).
Calendula is at the top of the “most popular annuals in the garden” list. Well known for its healing properties and edible flowers, this friendly dyer’s herb fits into any garden or landscape. Bees, butterflies, birds, people...everyone digs ‘em. Start seeds indoors in the late winter, or sow them directly into the garden in the spring; late fall for blooms the following spring. Pot marigold grows from 18-24 inches tall and self-sows readily.
Decent garden soil will have calendula putting on her best show, but she’ll survive almost any place she’s asked to. Steady deadheading just encourages more flowers, so harvest as much as you can for both the dye pot and your salad bowl.
Depending on the fiber and the mordant, calendula flowers produce light, lemon yellows, olive-y browns, and light browns.
Reprinted with permission from A Garden to Dye For, by Chris McLaughlin and published by St. Lynn’s, 2015.
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