Shipping in the U.S is weird right now, Thank you for your patience!

From Back Yard to Dye Pots

From Back Yard to Dye Pots

(originally published June 1, 2020)
Our little cottage is right in the woods outside of Eureka Montana. When it comes to abundant and available dyestuff, Fir cones are at the top of the list. While our forest is a mixed mostly conifer forest, at our altitude sub-alpine fir reign supreme ( there are also the occasional lodgepole, tamarack, ponderosa, and cedar - my Dad was a dendrophile - what can I say? It rubbed off on me.) Each of these different species attract and interact with different lichens and fungi in beautiful symbiotic relationships - but that's a story for another blog.
When I was a kid I spent hours wandering the hillsides of Mount Helena searching for and collecting "perfect" pinecones - I was fascinated by their fractal spirals, I thought they smelled good. I would bring them home by the pocketful and stash them in the bottom of my closet. I was gifted a giant pinecone - I'm not sure what species - when I was 6 and it's a prized possession to this day.
What I'm trying to say is: I'm not sure why it took me so long to try dyeing with them. Most "woody" dyestuff (bark - cones - woods) are high in tannins - so they can be used to mordant or dye on their own. Tannins are also used to help cellulose fibers take color, so I was able to achieve this same lovely terra-cotta color on both cotton and linen as well as this Montana raised Icelandic wool. I am in love. Perhaps in my future I'll get my hands on enough linen yardage for a dress or skirt and dye it this way. It would be hard to resist making myself a fir cone dress. I'm guessing that there will be some variation between the shades you could get between species of conifer - like the variations in pinks and greens you can get when dyeing with ferns. I'll have to scope out other trees and document when I next do a pot.
Also important: Icelandic Sheepdog pup Runi shares my love of pinecones - while we were busy collecting these from the yard, he was busy stealing them from the dye-pot and tossing them in the air with glee. Very helpful.