A Short Spin on Natural Dyeing

A view of healing through craft.

Linda Perry Oct 6, 2021 - 4 min read

A Short Spin on Natural Dyeing Primary Image

Fall Out. A more relaxed experimental dyeing day, reflecting on the quiet changes of the season. Photos by John Nunan.

I am a fiber artist living on a small island in Maine, where I spend probably too much time dyeing and experimenting with natural dyes. My specialty is indigo, which I have been doing for about a decade, with both yarns and fabrics. Spin Off #4 Linda Perry

When I typically dye 24 skeins per session, I will get the first 6 skeins a deep blue, the next 6 a medium blue, the next 6 a paler blue, and the last 6, when the kettle is nearly exhausted, a very faint blue color resembling sea glass. I categorize and name the shades in order: High Tide, Ebb Tide, Slack Tide, and Low Tide.

During the year of the pandemic, however, I had a transformative experience. You see, to me, the word “dyeing” is such an oxymoron to the word “dying”. When I dye, I am in a creative state of excitement, very much alive, and almost adrenaline crazed. But, exactly as the pandemic hit, my dad suddenly passed away—a whiplash kind of effect, and something that so many of us have similarly experienced. I needed to switch gears, and I threw myself into a productive frenzy. I found that during lockdown I had to look close to home for my resources for dyes other than indigo. I scoured my kitchen, my pantry, pulling out anything that would remotely work as a natural dye: beets, spinach, frozen blueberries and strawberries, red grapes, onion skins, turmeric, tea, and I even scrounged a little maraschino cherry juice! Next, I dove into my stashes for available natural cloth and yarns. Ready to dip! Linda Perry Natural Dyeing 1

After a natural dyeing session I usually have a small amount of the solution left over. I pour it into large mason jars and mix colors together, adding a bit of mordant, yarn, and/or fabric. On the window sill the sun takes care of the rest for a laid-back week of solar dyeing!

Voila! I went crazy—no limitation, no formulas, like a wild child. I found so much peace in this therapeutic activity, such satisfaction. It truly saved my sanity and gave me solace from grief. And the best thing about it, I did it all in my dad’s kitchen. We lived next door to each other and we loved cooking meals together daily. It was special to be able to walk into his home and feel recovery through creativity. Cheers to his maraschino cherries—he made a mean Manhattan!

Spin Off #2 Linda Perry

Winter's end: Merry melting moments with a backyard playground of shoreline and solar dyeing.

Maine seasons with a reason. Where living and creating is easy, just as life should be.

Linda Perry has spent much of her life creating unique hand-crafted wearable art, distinctly apart from anything mass produced or made by machinery. She works quietly, taking inspiration from nature and the ever-changing skies and harbor waters surrounding her tiny studio on Davis Island. You can find her creations at Harbor Yarns.