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Cottonwood Catkins

Forager/Dyer/Human Collaborator: Nyki Tews

Plant/Non Human Collaborator: Spent Cottonwood Catkins found on the ground

Color/Fiber: Green on both fibers. Cotton mordanted with Alum Acetate + chalk after bath. Wool mordanted with Potassium Alum Sulfate

Date Foraged: April 8, 2021

Location Foraged: Wapato Access Greenway State Park

Dye Method: Stovetop

Recipe + Notes:

I used a handful of fallen flowers from an unknown tree (Identified as Cottonwood later) I collected while walking with my lover. The mud held their inky purple stains not far from stream violets and dewy trillium. I collected a handful or two and drove them home, between my knees in an empty coffee mug. I simmered them on low in a small aluminum pot for 2 hours. Roughly the length of a Blazer’s game. They won, despite a losing streak. I let the fabric sit overnight.

It was fun thinking about how plants show their color even well past their prime (we typically enjoy flowers in bloom, still on the plant or tree). This time, the flowers didn’t look particularly beautiful smooshed in the mud, but it was fun seeing how much they still had to offer.

I returned for more the following week and now have two linen cloths the color of garden sage, folded and stacked in my kitchen, next to the cookie jar and a tangle of lichen.

The catkins were a bit old, a bit trampled, some were muddy and torn. But in a little pot, usually reserved for oatmeal, a royal purple dye emerged. So much life left.

Not unlike love after divorce.


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