Field Wonderful’s Allison Lutes Trys Fresh Indigo Leaf Dyeing

You never know what people can and will do with the recipes and dyes we have for sale on the Botanical Colors site. When we saw what Allison Lutes (@fieldwonderful on Instagram), did with John Marshall’s “How To  Dye With Fresh Indigo”all we wanted to do was dye for days.

Allison tagged @botanicalcolors on Instagram saying, “The garden is wild this year. Indigo is the only thing I managed to plant. Everything else just reseeded from last year, so we have a tangle of flowers, herbs, and weeds out back. I knew if I wanted to dye with the indigo I needed to harvest it before it went to seed, so Sunday afternoon I pulled up my three small indigo plants. I stripped the leaves, plunked them in ice water, and blended them up. I strained the indigo dye into a bucket of cold water and added a skein of sock yarn and some cotton bags. The cotton didn’t absorb much color, but the yarn came out pale turquoise. Natural dyes are some kind of magic…”

We caught up with Allison to learn more about her natural dyeing.

Tell us more about your garden and when you incorporated growing indigo?

When we moved into our house seven years ago one of the first things I did was start a small garden, even though we moved in late October. I planted garlic that fall and watched the light throughout the winter to decide the best place to plant. The next spring I started with herbs that reminded me of my mom’s garden when I was growing up and food crops like strawberries and tomatoes. Over the years I’ve added flowers, and as my interest in knitting and sewing has grown, I’ve added natural dye plants like marigolds, tansy, and cosmos, which flourish with little input from me.

Last year at the Kentucky Sheep and Fiber Festival I bought three Japanese indigo plants, all that the seller had left at the end of the day. I planted them in my garden, but they went to seed before I could dye with the leaves. I felt disappointed, but I wanted to try again. This year I grew one plant from last year’s Japanese indigo (it actually reseeded itself, which I was told wouldn’t happen!) and bought two more indigo seedlings of unknown variety. They thrived in my wild garden.

Are you typically a person who likes to experiment with color?

I’m fascinated by natural dyes, so in that sense I love the magic of making color from plants. Color brings me a lot of joy, and I look forward to exploring color more in the future.

Did you stick directly to our recipe or did you throw in a few tricks of your own?

I’m still such a new dyer, so it was great to have a recipe to follow.

Would you do it again?

I love the pale turquoise color the fresh leaf indigo gave the yarn. Part of the fun of natural dyeing for me is trying new plants and methods. Next time I want to try making a fermented indigo vat.

Follow @fieldwonderful on Instagram and follow her journey!