Goldenrod Harvesting, Preparation and Dyeing Instructions

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Golden Rod Photo by Stephanie Fortin

This post is courtesy of our amazingly talented studio member Stephanie Fortin of coeurdeliontextiles. Follow Stephanie on instagram.

Hi Everyone! I thought it would be a good time to share this recipe and instructions, that i’ve created for a fun day of Goldenrod dyeing. Goldenrod season is soon upon us and this is a fantastic way to use this abundant plant this time of year. Enjoy, be safe and have fun!

Harvesting and Preparing Goldenrod
Goldenrod is a wonderful plant for creating dye. The plant yields a range of beautiful, fairly strong colourfast greens and bright sunny to golden yellows with the addition of mordants, as well as playing with the ph levels of your dye bath. Goldenrod is a native plant to Canada and found all over the world, there are many different species of goldenrod. A common species in Ontario and the most likely to be seen is Canada Goldenrod (Solidago
canadensis), also called Rock Goldenrod. This species can be found in fields, along highways and open, dry areas between August – October. An additional bonus with the Goldenrod plant is that it grows in abundance and spreads quickly, so you can pick freely without disrupting or disturbing the landscape.

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Golden Rod in the sunlight photo by Stephanie Fortin

STEP 1
Collecting Goldenrod Plant

What you will need:
1. Gloves
2. Shears/scissors
3. Container/basket/bag to collect plant in (there will be bugs)

Once you have found an abundant goldenrod growth, you are now ready to harvest. A misconception with goldenrod is that it causes allergies. The plant does not have pollen that distributes with wind, therefore is not an allergy irritant. There may be ragweed in the area and you might want to take an allergy pill before you begin harvesting. I will also warn you that there will be many bees and beetles within and on the goldenrod plant. Be careful when you are reaching and cutting stems. If you are allergic to bees, please keep this in mind and take proper caution.
Even though Goldenrod grows rampantly, try not to completely deplete plants in one area. As there usually are many plants together, this is easy to do. When cutting stems, cut the flower and stem, both are great for dyes. Earlier blooms will produce more vibrant dyes.
With gloved hands and sun protection as you will be in open areas, cut and collect stems with flowers, in your bag or container. Collect as little or as much as you want.

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Preparing Goldenrod for Dye Bath Photo by Anouk Desologes

STEP 2
Preparing goldenrod for dye bath

Once you are back at home or in your creative space. You are ready to prepare your plants.

What you will need:
1. Dye pot or buckets for separation initially (stainless steel, enamel)
2. Gloves
3. Workspace area that can get a bit dirty and is also safe and ventilated
4. Notebook to take notes

There will be many small insects in your plants, I suggest doing this process outside if you can. Separate the flowers from the stems, (optional) The flowers on their own will yield brighter yellows, while the stems will yield green yellows. If you decide to keep them all together in one dye bath you will get a mixture. Place the goldenrod into your dye pot.

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Photo by Stephanie Fortin

STEP 3
Harvesting Dye

Once you have the goldenrod in your dye pot it’s time to obtain the dye.

What you will need:
1. Stovetop
2. prepared dye pot (stainless steel or enamel) with plant
3. Water – soft water is best for goldenrod add calgon to hard water
4. Notebook
5. Scale
6. Gloves/Oven Mitts

The dye pot must be stainless steel or enamel so that it does not react with the dye. When cold dyeing you can also use plastic or glass. You will keep notes on things such as the weight/amount of plant you are using, amount of water, WOF (weight of fabric), for your own use, this is not necessary if you do not want to recreate in future.
Once you have your plants in the pot, cover the plants entirely with water and bring to a boil. Boil for 20 min and simmer for 3 hours. (you can alter the time and experiment as you wish) Add water as needed. The more water the lighter the shade. The dye will release from the plant in the process. Remove the dye after time from the plants with a strainer and repeat the process if more dye can be removed.

golden rod dyed fabric samples photo by Stephanie Fortin

goldenrod dyed fabric samples photo by Stephanie Fortin

STEP 4
Dyeing Fabric

Now that you have your dye separated from the plant. Discard your goldenrod remnants into the compost and prepare your fabric to dye.

What you will need:
1. Fabric – protein (animal – silk, wool) Synthetic fibres will not dye. If you are over dyeing a garment, the thread will most likely, not dye. Silk or protein results are the best and easiest. This recipe is for protein fibres, cellulose fibres require additional instructions.
2. Detergent soap/Synthrapol
3. Stovetop
4. Dye pot
5. Scale
6. Mordant – Alum, Iron (ferrous)
7. Thermometer
8. Gloves

To Begin, weigh dry fabric to get the WOF and write this down in your notes. Before dyeing any fabric, it should always be washed or scoured, to remove any dirt, so the dye will bind properly. Soak the fabric in water and wet it before dyeing. If you wash or scour your fabric right before, leave it wet. The fibres will loosen when wet and allow the dye to sink in easier. This will result in an even dyeing.
To create a bond between the fabric and dye you must mordant your fabric. Mordant, which means “to bite”, is added during the process to fix the dye, this helps it become washfast and lightfast. Depending on what type of fibre you are using you can use many different mordants. We are using silk, iron and alum in my examples. Metals are commonly used as mordants, some plants act as mordants and a few plant dyes do not require mordants. We no longer use harsh metals such as tin. Always exercise due diligence and make sure safety comes first.
While the fabric is soaking, mix mordants into separate pots or buckets – these can be glass, plastic, stainless steel or enamel. Large enough to place and move your fabric in without spilling over. Mordants can be purchased at fibre art supply stores and bulk food
stores. Another option is to find an object created out of iron, soak it in a jar of water for a length of time and the water will become the mordant. Try placing the item into the dye pot if you are ok with the pot being contaminated with said mordant. The possibilities are endless once you know the basics. Always check safety regulations for anything you are using if you are unsure.
You can yield a wide range of colours by altering the ph levels of a natural dye bath. Experimenting to see what works best for you is a great way to learn once you have the basic idea.
Mix mordant baths.
Mix 5-8% WOF for cellulose and 15% WOF for protein if using alum.
Mix 2-4% WOF when using iron. Be careful with iron, too much can damage the fibres and make your piece brittle. You should have 1 dye bath, 1 alum bath and 1 iron bath set up at this point. You’re ready to dye!
Immerse your wet fabric into the dye pot. The stove does not have to be on during dyeing, If the water is warm it will dye easier and faster. Dyeing cold is a possibility. Keep the dye bath at 60 degrees celsius (about the temperature of hot tap water) or heat occasionally for the best results.
Move your fabric within the dye for even dyeing. Once you see colour forming, the time it is in the dye bath is up to you – take notes and experiment. The longer it is submerged the darker the shade will be. 15 min minimum recommended.
Once you are happy with the shade, you will now rinse the fabric and repeat in a mordant bath. Alum will brighten the colour while Iron will darken and grey the shade. You can repeat these steps as many times as you’d like until you are satisfied. You can also start with the mordant and see what happens, this is called pre mordanting your fabric. You can even do this in advance, experiment and see what happens.

Recap:

Dye bath – 15 min
rinse
Mordant – 15 min
rinse
repeat.

Mixing 4 parts water and 1 part vinegar immerse your dyed fabric and rinse to help in setting. Wash and dry the fabric and you have completed golden rod harvesting and dyeing. Congratulations!
Wash separately.

I hope you have enjoyed this fun experiment, if you want to learn more, get in touch and I will update you on the next round of natural dye workshops.
Have a wonderful time dyeing!
– Steph

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