Adventures in Eco-Dyeing

Marigolds, Petunias and Coreopsis


As I weeded and mulched, I sent the boys off, first to pick our ripened cherry tommies, but then to pick marigolds, “20 blooms each please, of the golden orange and rusty red.”

I also whipped the deep purple petunias off a few plants as the window of ‘ripeness’ for these flowers is far less long than the hardy and seemingly eternal marigolds. It seems the petunias bloom 3ish days before they begin to wilt and droop and shrink-dry to a raisin. They are such plump looking fellows when they’re in their prime but when they droop you notice how little of their plummage there really is. They are like a pair of silk bloomers, the 17th century kind, slightly gathered at the ankle for a definite ballooning effect higher up. But once crumpled into a ball, you could squish 4 in your shoe.

According to India Flint, it is the deep blue and deep purple petunias that give away the best colour. I have a swathe of pink and white in the garden too and have picked a few pinks just in case she never tried with those… I’ll leave the white ones for now, but may have to experiment, afterall we never know for sure until we try ourselves!

I also picked what I thought were coreopsis, as – whatever this plant is – is growing profusely all over our community gardens at the moment. They are large springy 8 petalled daisies, a bright orange colour with golden styles and stumpy ferny foliage. They are terrific self-sowers and have popped up out of nearly every crevice and border. They are the ones in the third picture travelling clockwise.

These blooms are destined for adventures in solar-steeping.

I’ve ordered some silk for contact bundle dyeing, but first I wanted to see what sorts of colour to expect. Silk is a high cost experimental material afterall!

So onto the scales…
















…they went, at a very approximate 10g as there is no decimal point on these ones…


And into the jars with 250mL of filtered tap water.

Check out how quickly the marigolds lent their precious sunlight hues to the water!

I’m going to leave these jars of developing colour out in the sun for a week, per the solar-dyeing method described by Flint. I want to see how intense the colour can get. Will the petals themselves lose their intensity? Will the colour peak at a certain point before degrading and fading away?

This is indeed a slow method, but I love the rhythm of the celestial body we all rely on, gradually heating the water until its zenith in the sky, before the setting occurs and along with it, the gradual cooling beneath our orbiting moon and encircling stars.

Looking out the window and seeing them perched also gives me moments to ponder how I will proceed with the aforementioned expensive silk… so far the colour is promising and is exciting me… see the intensity after day 2:

My so-called coreopsis, though:




Turns out, they are cosmos:





3 thoughts on “Marigolds, Petunias and Coreopsis

  1. Ooooooo! Breathe out… much petal love. I can’t wait to see how your silk goes. I’ve been wanting to do this for years – I have an expensive piece of Merino wool waiting for me. Would this method work in that?


    1. Absolutely it would – this method is possible with any natural fibre and with almost any plant available… hmm but for your special piece of Merino? Maybe you want to try a eucalyptus bundle? Apparently the two work incredibly well together and no need for a mordant. Can you imagine the scent afterwards? Yummy. India Flint is all over it – get a copy of her books, you would absolutely love them.


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