Textile Society of America



Donna Brown

Date of this Version



Crosscurrents: Land, Labor, and the Port. Textile Society of America's 15th Biennial Symposium. Savannah. GA. October 19-23. 2016.


Copyright 2016 by Donna Brown


Imagine looking out from your patio to an inspiring vista of the Denver Botanic Gardens Chatfield Farms (DGB). Add to this a life-long love of natural dyes. Can you envision the garden down there, the blossoms of cosmos and coreopsis, the rows of indigo, the spreading madder, the hopi sunflowers nodding in the breeze? I am Donna Brown and this has been my vision ever since we moved to our “room with a view” that overlooks DGB, a 750 acre native plant refuge and working farm housing the Hildebrand Ranch, an historic homestead with cutting and herb gardens I am a passionate natural dyer and teach others the art in venues across the United States and abroad. I am also a weaver and member of the Rocky Mountain Weavers Guild (RMWG). In 2013 the RMWG received a donation from the Ford family in memory of their daughter, Janice Ford, who was an active RMWG member. RMWG approached me to do a natural dye workshop with the monies received –knowing Janice’s love of color. I instead suggested the money be used to start a dye garden. What an opportunity to bring a dream to a reality! With the guild’s approval, I met with Larry Vickerman (Director of the DBG Chatfield Farms) who loved the idea. The RMWG also committed to additional funding to complete the garden irrigation and fencing. Starting in the fall of 2013 a RMWG natural dye group was formed to start researching and selecting dye plants that were appropriate for our area. Some plants were chosen because they are well known, such as Marigolds, Coreopsis, Black-eyed Susan and Cosmos. Other plants, such as Madder and Indigo, were chosen because of what colors they produce. Still others, such as Weld and Dyer’s Broom, were picked because of their historic nature. This is the third year for the dye garden and many of the plants started from seed in the DBG greenhouses this year are from seeds of plants grown in the garden last year. The plants grown in the 2016 garden are: Black-eyed Susan ( Rudbeckia), Cota /Navajo Tea (Thelesperma filifolium). Cosmos (Cosmos sulpheereus), Coreopsis (Coresopsis tinctorial), Hopi Sunflower (Helanthus annus), Black Hollyhock ( Alcea rosea), Indigo (Persicaria tinctorial), Madder (Rubia Tinctoria), French Marigold ( Tagestes putula) , African Marigold ( Tagestes erecta), Dyers Broom ( Genista tinctoria), Yarrow ( Achillea millifolium), Zinnia (Zinnia elegans), and Weld ( Reseda tinctorial).