Today our 7th grade handwork students will be kicking off a weeks worth of natural dye workshops for our 4th to 7th grade students. It will be a week of experimentation, surprise, success and a few flops, too.
In that vein of experimentation, today our 7th graders will harvest the Hopi Red Amaranth plant from our school garden that has been lovingly tended by Ms. Swigris and Ms. Nance and the Mountains Sage Gardeners. This plant was traditionally used by the Hopi people but has been little studied by modern dyers so we will be documenting our process and leanings and adding to the plant knowledge of the natural dye community. Our 5th grade students will be saving the seeds from this plant to complement their study of botany so that we can replant in the spring and share with other natural dye enthusiasts. What important work for our students!
Our emphasis will be on native plants. So far, in addition to the Amaranth we planted in our garden, we have other locally sourced dye plants ready to go: pine bark, bindweed (I know--can you believe there might be something useful about bindweed!), and marigolds. Perhaps others in our community will supply other natural dye sources with us as the week progresses.
What will we dye?
7th grade will dye cotton cloth for their study of handmade puppets
6th grade will dye silk for hand sewing
5th grade will dye wool yarn for use in their socks, hats and mittens
4th grade will dye embroidery thread for their cross-stitch project
It will be nice to end up with a clothesline filled with naturally dyed fabrics and textiles, but the teacher in me loves the idea of the lessons in chemistry, botany, environmental stewardship and history hidden between the folds.
Mrs. Barbara Albert