North Texas Daily

On-Campus Garden Supplies Students With Natural Dyes

On-Campus Garden Supplies Students With Natural Dyes

January 27
01:08 2015

Linda Kessler/ Staff Writer

UNT’s dye garden provides a colorful experience to the students who tend to it.

The garden has been up and running since October 2013 and has continued to grow and evolve as students cultivate natural color dyes from the garden’s plants. The garden, located near Bain Hall and the Coliseum, is maintained almost exclusively by student volunteers.

“I help to organize and make sure the dye garden passes from one student generation to the next,” faculty mentor Lesli Robertson said. “But it’s primarily a student-led project.”

Purple iris, weld, black-eyed Susan, lavender, sumac and madder currently grow in the garden. In late spring, bluebonnets, coreopsis and yarrow will also bloom. These plants can produce shades of yellow, blue, teal, green, gray and red.

“I think the most important thing I have taken away from working in the garden is the hard work and labor involved with maintaining the plants so we can cultivate color from them,” workshop coordinator and fibers graduate Sarah Westrup said. “It’s a rewarding experience to take care of the plants and then be able to harvest them, boil them and use them as dye.”

Roberson said in addition to acting as a community resource, the garden is a place for students to learn, explore and experiment.

“I actually didn’t know a lot about natural dyeing [when I started] and I have learned so much more,” fibers senior and dye garden ambassador Sarah Popplewell said. “The garden is a great learning opportunity.”

The focus of the garden is for students to grow their own fresh dyes to use on products to sell, Robertson said. The group just finished doing a line of silk scarves dyed in indigo.

Westrup said dyeing with fresh leaf indigo was one of her favorite experiences.

“At first the dye bath looked green, like a spinach smoothie, rather than blue like the store-bought indigo.” Westrup said. “But once I took my silk cloth out of the bath it transformed into a jewel tone teal and I was in love.

Popplewell said volunteers come from other art departments and colleges, but mostly it is a select few who work closely in the garden.

“Students came from the Colegio Unión México and Subire business schools in Mexico and we did workshops with them,” Popplewell said. “Getting to see their reactions, and their joy when making their own products from start to finish was amazing.”

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North Texas Daily

North Texas Daily

The North Texas Daily is the official student newspaper of the University of North Texas, proudly serving UNT and the Denton community since 1916.

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