I always find it kind of amusing that films set in the far, far past tend to show people dressed mostly in shades of brown and ecru with little touches of muddy green or dull ochre here and there. Oh, and the more poor people, the less color in general.
But the fact is that some surprising colors – and surprisingly bright shades of them! – can be produced via natural dyestuffs that would have been found growing by the side of the road.
For instance, I once chatted with a woman who dyed her own thread and wove her own fabric. She only used natural dyestuffs. I admired a scarf that included a rather delicious salmon pink stripe. What created that color? Mushrooms!
I still don’t know what kind of mushrooms they were. I didn’t think to ask and I’ve never met up with her again. All the same, there’s a variety of mushroom in the world that produces a clear, bright salmon pink when dying wool. Somehow, that makes me happy.
Depending on circumstances, using Queen Anne’s Lace as a dye might leave you with purple, green, or yellow. Oh, and dandelion roots can produce red dye.
Curious to know more? I found this handy chart of natural dyestuffs and what colors they produce over at Pioneer Thinking. You’ll also find some good basic information to get you started dyeing for yourself. Oh, and there are pages of tips from readers.