GROWING + DYEING WITH COREOPSIS


COREOPSIS TINCTORIA, AKA:

dyer’s coreopsis
calliopsis
plains tickseed
plains coreopsis
golden tickseed

Coreopsis varieties have long been used as a medicinal plant, as well as to create shades of orange. It’s one of the easiest plants to grow and it is prolific with flowers from early summer until frost, offering plenty for the birds and bees as well as the dye pot.

c. tinctoria - found all across North America, thought to originally be from the central grasslands
c. lanceolata - native to Cape Cod; escaped from cultivation in the Northeast; dry soils
c.rosea - native to Cape Cod; grows in damp, peaty pond shores

“Coreopsis tinctoria var. tinctoria (golden tickseed), infusion of whole plant, except for the root, taken by women desiring female babies.”
Used to make a hot beverage until the introduction of coffee by traders.
It was believed a cup of tea would protect the drinker from lightning.
Early settlers stuffed mattress with the plant to repel bedbugs.
The astringent roots were used for stomach + GI issues; dried tops for strengthening blood.
The whole plant was boiled for internal pain + bleeding.

GROWING COREOPSIS TINCTORIA
Annual
Full to part sun
55 days to flower
2 - 4’ tall 
Blooms from June - first frost.
Hummingbirds feed on the nectar.
Bees pollinate the flowers.
Birds enjoy the seeds.
Does best when crowded.
Good border plant.
Sometimes requires staking.
Flowers always face the sun.
Water until established and in dry weather to extend flowering.
Keep plants from going to seed by harvesting often.
Sow seeds from mid-spring through early summer.
Thin as necessary - use for dyeing.
Will self-seed for next year.

SEED STARTING:
Direct seed by scattering outside after last frost over a cleared area in a sunny spot. Compress into soil, but do not cover.
Keep moist until seedlings are about 6 - 8” inches.
OR
Start indoors about 2 weeks prior to last frost and transplant when seeds are 2” tall.
Keep moist until established.
Watch out for slugs (eggshells).
Thin to 4” apart - dye with clippings.

DYEING NOTES
24 plants will yield enough flowers to dye a pound of wool or silk, yet *all parts produce color* to dye throughout the season.
Use fresh, or dry for storage.
Harvest flowers in bloom or past prime and always leave some behind.
Use equal weights of plant material to fiber.
Soak plant material overnight for more saturated colors.
Ways to dye: solar/all-in-one, bundle dye, heat
Fabric must be prepped with a mordant prior to dyeing.
Use exhausted baths for muted shades of color.
Or make a lake pigment from the remaining liquid with soda ash + alum.

Shifting the pH will alter dye bath color:
plant tops/flowers = yellows, oranges, browns
florets + alum/chalk = orange
Leaves + alum/chalk = bright gold
leaves + flowers + iron = black/brown

DYE POT METHOD:
Weigh fibers to be dyed to determine amount of plant material needed.
Place plant material in pot and cover with water.
Bring to a low simmer and maintain until desired color is reached.
Allow to sit overnight to develop a deeper color.
Remove plant materials (or not) and add wetted fibers to pot.
Be sure fibers can move freely in the dye pot, adding more water to cover, if needed.
Gently rotate fibers until desired color is reached, at least 10 minutes or as long as overnight.
Remove from dye bath, squeezing excess dye back into pot.
Rinse in similar temp water until clear.
Hand wash with a pH-neutral soap and line dry.

ECO-PRINTING METHOD:
Soak prepared fibers thoroughly and lay out on a flat surface.
Scatter with leaves, petals, etc.
Roll or fold into a bundle and tie tightly.
Place in a veggie steamer within a pot and steam for about 45 mintues, rotating halfway through.
Remove from heat and allow to cool. Leave to absorb color overnight, or open to reveal the plant’s palette.
Rinse in similar temp water until clear.
Hand wash with a pH-neutral soap and line dry.

SUN/SOLAR METHOD:
Add plant material and prepared fibers to a large jar with a lid.
Boil water, allow to cool a bit and pour over, ensuring fibers are covered.
Leave in a sunny window until desired color, shaking often.
Remove fibers and rinse in cool water until clear.
Hand wash with a pH-neutral soap and line dry.