Colors of Clifton: Foraging and Dyeing with Native Plants

This fall, The Clifton Institute hosted a program called Colors of Clifton: Preserving the Palette of Autumn. We gathered native plants and learned about their special qualities with naturalist, Regina Yurkonis.

“I don’t want my art to do damage. All things pass away, so using natural materials allows one’s art to dissolve back into the system to become other things.”
-Regina Yurkonis


Then we learned how to to make natural dyes, coaxing colors from leaves, flowers, bark and roots with historical home arts interpreter, Feliecia Brooks. Finally, we combined our naturally-dyed wool and pressed plants to create a unique framed art piece. Because I want you to actually see the colors of Clifton, instead of read about them, here are some photographs from the program along with a summary of the process:


Step one: We collected our materials (goldenrod flowers, sumac berries, black walnuts).
Step 2: We prepared the skeins of yarn.

Step 3: We prepared the dye pots (below, in order: goldrenrod, sumac, and walnut), then in went the yarn!


Step 4: The yarn was removed from the dye pots and hung up to dry.
Step 5: We labeled and wound the yarn into balls, and admired the beautiful, natural hues!


After the program, Feliecia decided to experiment with pokeberry and this is the result! Pokeberries are said to produce a fugitive dye, great for practicing ‘non-attachment’ as the color fades over time!
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I made this crocheted wall-hanging with sample stripes of each dye color. It’s hung from a beaver-chewed stick!

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