Lessons from the Dye House 3: Yarrow

On one of my journeys through the forest I saw the wild cherry trees, straight and tall reaching up to the light, and the broken trunks of the elders twisted under their own weight. I come to understand this is how it is for man; he is as fragile as the grass, nevertheless his soul always tends towards the skies.
On one of these walks in the hills blooming around Cluj, half rooted in  reality and half lost in reverie, I spotted a white flower with fluffy leaves. It’s a plant that I have known since I was little. It made me a promise, telling that it knew a recipe for perfect camouflage with nature: shades of khaki green.
This plant is: Yarrow or Achillea millefolium. The name “Achillea” comes from the name of the legendary hero Achilles, who discovered the plant and used it to treat the wounds of his soldiers. Besides its medicinal qualities (booting the immune system, nerve tonic, hemostatic) it is also used to obtain shades of  yellow and green in the dye house.
Today we aim to become the grass, to hide in the flowery fields and for a moment to become still. We go to the sunny hillsides where yarrow grows, scattered in clumps with  tall stems 20 – 80cm, with its downy leaves and small white flowers.
Harvest the flowers when they are in full bloom and boil them while they are still fresh to get the best color. In a large pot, cover the flowers with water and boil for about 1 hour. Then take out the plant debris and add 1 tablespoon of copper sulphate per liter of remaining solution. Mix well until dissolved and then add the wool to be dyed. Heat on the fire for 15-20 minutes. Remove the wool, wash it  several times and then lay it in the sun to dry. The final result is a  beautiful shade of green khaki.
This natural wool dyeing recipe was translated and edited from De Dimineata, a blog by the Cluj based jewelery designer Diana Calin. She uses natural methods and antiqued metals to create embroidered felt necklace pendants, jewelery and accessories. To purchase her products, check out her online shop.



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