I recently had the opportunity to talk with Janet Garman for my podcast (The Flying Goat Farm Podcast). Janet is a fiber farmer and owner of Timbercreek Farm. She has a mixture of sheep who provide her with beautiful fleeces which get made into yarn. Janet grew interested in natural dyeing when a friend was writing a book on the subject. Natural dyeing quickly became a creative outlet for her.
Janet loves to experiment with plants that she forages on her property. She has experience using plants such as goldenrod, pokeberry, Dock, mulberry, acorns, black walnut and various barks. Since her family owns a lumber mill, she has access to many wood shavings which can provide beautiful color. Janet also uses plants that are considered invasive like the super abundant perilla frutuscans (a wild mint), knotweed, purple dead nettle, and pokeberry which are found abundantly on her property. Janet has also begun to plant dye plants like marigold and indigo to add some new colors to her palette.
Rather than follow recipes from other dyers, Janet loves to experiment, therefore many of her colors are unique. Natural dyeing is more of an art than a science and Janet becomes an artist at her pots. She mostly uses immersion techniques, adding a little of this or that into the pot to achieve fantastic colors.
Madder is one of Janet’s favorites since she can modify the color with some acid or base, iron or overdyeing. There are so many possibilities for a rainbow of color. The dye that she is most proud of is pokeberry. She researched a technique to help this beautiful magenta dye become light and wash fast. The one great surprise to Janet was that acorns can yield much deeper colors when they are left to soak for several days.
Janet has brought it full circle by authoring several books to help people who want to become small farmers as she did. There are books about raising goats, sheep and chickens as well as a wonderful dye book called Natural Dyes on Wool with Timber Creek Farm. This is not only a how-to book but is also a place where dyers can keep a journal about their own dye experiences with the 15 kitchen, garden and foraged dyestuffs.
To find out more about Janet’s farm, books and classes go to timbercreekfarmer.com
More books by Janet can be found at her publishing company: Sawdust Publishing