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The Meadow

Category: Natural Dyes

Natural Dyes from Meadow Natives with Sherry Haar

On an unseasonably cool, July day, I met Dr. Sherry Haar (of the Department of Apparel, Textiles, and Interior Design at K-State) in the Meadow for an intro lesson in natural plant dyes.

Dr. Haar’s research centers on natural plant dyes and expands into many areas of sustainability. She has recently begun work with textiles that may impact natural funereal and burial practices. Fascinating, isn’t she? Now that I have your attention, here’s a bit of what Dr. Haar showed me today:

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Dr. Haar holding up a quick test of Asclepias tuberosa liquor (flowers + warm water). Image by Katie Kingery-Page

Dr. Haar began by testing several species of flower using fabric test strips. Each strip contains different samples of fabrics in a fabric family, such as silks, or cellulose fabrics (cotton, linen, rayon…).

Haar holds a fabric test strip prior to dying. Image by Katie Kingery-Page.
Haar holds a fabric test strip prior to dying. Image by Katie Kingery-Page.

The test strip quickly absorbed a brilliant orange color from Coreopsis tinctoria (annual plains coreopsis).

Test strip after just a few minutes in Coreopsis tinctorium liquor. Image by Katie Kingery-Page.
Test strip after just a few minutes in Coreopsis tinctoria liquor. Image by Katie Kingery-Page.

Dr. Haar explained other processes she uses to experiment with natural plant dyes. She will often “bundle” plants in fabric pre-treated with a mordant, to reveal what effects the flower, leaf, or stem of a plant may create. She also “pounds” plant material into pre-treated fabric, which results in brilliant colors with realistic pattern impressions of the plant’s structure.

Dr. Haar prepares to wrap a bundle of native plants from the Meadow. Image by Katie Kingery-Page.
Dr. Haar prepares to wrap a bundle of native plants from the Meadow. Image by Katie Kingery-Page.
A coreopsis flower begins to show through a top layer of fabric after pounding with a round-head hammer. Image by Katie Kingery-Page.
A coreopsis flower begins to show through a top layer of fabric after pounding with a round-head hammer. Image by Katie Kingery-Page.

Dr. Haar’s fabric designs are stunning; she has designed many fabrics for garments and other uses. We look forward to her use¬†and her students’ use of the K-State Meadow!

Postscript: After the Meadow visit, Haar placed the bundled plants in pretreated fabric in a sunny, outdoor location.

A plant dye bundle. Image by Sherry Haar.
A plant dye bundle. Image by Sherry Haar.

After several weeks in the sun, Haar opened the bundles to view the plant dye effects:

Natural dyes from Meadow Plants. Image by Sherry Haar.
Natural dyes from Meadow Plants. Image by Sherry Haar.
Natural dyes from Meadow Plants. Image by Sherry Haar.
Natural dyes from Meadow Plants. Image by Sherry Haar.
Natural dyes from Meadow Plants. Image by Sherry Haar.
Natural dyes from Meadow Plants. Image by Sherry Haar.