poetry and prose about place

harvesting colour – a reference library

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To begin my poetry project ‘harvesting colour’, I have created a small reference library.   I will keep my library by my desk in the loft I use as my studio.  I wrote most of the poems for my ‘growing and gathering’ manuscript there.


on my desk

To decide what books to order, I followed some suggestions made by Pia, an experienced dyer (follow her dyeing adventures at Colour Cottage –


I started with three books:

Rita Buchanan, 1999, A Dyer’s Garden (Dover Publications)

Jenny Dean, 2010, Wild Color: The Complete Guide to Making and Using Natural Dyes (Watson-Guptill Publications)

India Flint, 2010, Eco Colour: Botanical Dyes for Beautiful Textiles (Interweave Press)


I am sure I will be adding others as my project goes on, but for now these books have lots of great advice for a beginning dyer.  Along with these books, I have my entire library of illustrated botanical guides, including floras of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and North America to help me identify the plants I will need.



my growing dyers library


Roaming through these books as an ‘armchair dyer’ reminds me of the thrill of looking over seed catalogues while the snows of winter are falling.

Although I have not read any of these books in their entirety, I will give you a brief description of each:



Rita Buchanan, 1999, A Dyer’s Garden (Dover Publications)


Rita Buchanan’s A Dyer’s Garden is a straightforward guide to using plants for various cottage craft purposes.  The guide includes information on using plants as dyes, as well as for stuffing, soap-making and a source of fragrance.  The chapter on dyes provides a step by step method, as well as an in-depth description of various plants useable for dyes.  I love the black and white line drawings for some of these plants.  The book includes practical information throughout on growing these plants and on the history of their use. 



Jenny Dean, 2010, Wild Color: The Complete Guide to Making and Using Natural Dyes (Watson-Guptill Publications)


Jenny Dean’s book, Wild Color, is a riot of colour.  Easy to flip through, it has detailed sections on various stages of the dyeing process.  A useful feature for me will be her illustrated guide to some common plants used as dyestuffs.  I particularly like her colour charts of results obtained with various dyestuff, mordants and modifiers.  She also includes some background material on the history of dyers and dyeing.



India Flint, 2010, Eco Colour: Botanical Dyes for Beautiful Textiles (Interweave Press)


Eco Colour by India Flint is a well-illustrated book, full of photos of the author’s work with plants and fabrics.  You can tell she has been there every step of the way – included in the photos are her handwritten notes.  She describes well the process of dyeing and provides practical information.  She also includes lots of examples of colour transfers (eco prints) – leaves are applied directly to the cloth to make colour prints.  The book includes an extensive list of plants sorted by the colours they produce.


I can hardly wait to thoroughly read these three books.  Besides looking for a step by step approach, I will be on the hunt for words from the dyer’s vocabulary to include in my poems.


Another resource I will use for my project will be the Internet.  I read the blogs of a few dyers regularly, to learn something from their experiences, to get their advice and to better know these people who turn their appreciation of colour in nature into capturing colour.  I’m sure you will enjoy these blogs about dyeing and fabrics as much as I do:


Now that I have my reference library underway, I am gathering ideas about what I will need to begin my project.  My next post will show you some of the items I will be using.


Copyright  2014  Jane Tims

Written by jane tims

February 14, 2014 at 7:22 am

2 Responses

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  1. It sounds like a lot of fun to use natural dyes. I’m looking forward to future posts about your next project.



    February 14, 2014 at 10:52 pm

    • Hi Sheryl. Thanks. By the way, interesting to know that while we have had three days of storms, Helena was having bad weather a hundred years ago. Jane


      jane tims

      February 16, 2014 at 4:14 pm

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