Plant Colors from Crystal, Wide Ruins & Burntwater
“Plant dyes were used sparingly in the 19th century, but began to flourish in the early 20th century when some weavers focused strictly on vegetal and natural colors. In 1887, only three native dyes were recorded. In the 1920s, however, weavers experimented widely with native plants and varied their recipes with local minerals and store-bought chemicals. By the 1940s, well over forty Navajo plant dyes were recognized.
“The communities of Crystal, Wide Ruins, Pine Springs, Burntwater and Chinle are especially noted for their subtle vegetal-dyed colors. Flowers, leaves, stems, roots and bark of various native plants create a host of colors—from yellows, greens and browns to pink, purple and mauve.” —Ann Hedlund
“My family never dealt with plant dyes because we were raised to use natural wool from the sheep. The only experience I had with natural dyes was watching my dad’s mom from White Rock pick plants and make different colors for her wool. Also, she used to boil flashlight batteries to get a certain gray or blue—I don’t know how she came up with that! Some people are real secretive about what plants they use for colors. They’re willing to sell their dyed wool, but not to tell how they do it.” —Barbara Ornelas