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Natural Dyes: Foraging for Goldenrod

Goldenrod, or salidago, is often mistaken for ragweed and assumed to be the cause of many a miserable seasonal allergy. This is a false accusation. Ragweed is a very different plant which releases millions of minute pollen particles into the air at every chance bump. Goldenrod, on the other hand, is a lovely plant, host to a myriad of helpful pollinators and other insects.

When you harvest goldenrod, please do so in the afternoon, for in the late summer mornings the plants will be covered with many sleeping bees and other insects who are waiting for the day to warm to begin their explorations. Harvesting blossoms as they are beginning to open will result in a brighter, greener yellow; the fading blossoms will hold less pigment and result in a more gold, muted yellow. The green parts of the plant can also yield a yellow dye, so it’s not necessary to eliminate each leaf from the flower stalks. As you gather the flowers, shake them off well, which helps the wayward spiders find their way to safety instead of death in the dyepot.

Always leave some flowers for the insects – only harvest part of the flowerheads in an area. Gather the flowers in a dye pot (don’t use dye pots for preparing food,  but have some allocated cookware used only for dyeing). Cover all the dyestuff with water, then bring to a low simmer, being careful to not overheat the pot, as this damages the color. Simmer for an hour then let cool. Strain liquid from plant matter. Add your pre-mordanted fiber, then bring to a simmer again. Simmer for an hour, then let sit overnight. Remove the fiber and dry. Then give the fiber a final wash with a pH neutral soap to remove leftover pigment.

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