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DIY Sagebrush Dye: Purifying the Heart, Mind & Body

DIY Sagebrush Dye: Purifying the Heart, Mind & Body

Posted by : Mary Wutz   /  

From ancient times to present, Sagebrush is a plant used for sweat lodge and ritual purification in Native American Traditions. Like White Sage, its smoke is used to purify the air and body of bad spirits and influences. 

Sagebrush purifies the heart, mind and body, accelerating personal evolution. It allows us to see through our patterns, addictions and attachments to negative thought forms so that we may transmute them and align with our higher selves. 

Medicinally, Sagebrush kills bacteria, inhibits free radicals, and has anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic actions, and so is most useful as a cleansing first aid wash for disinfecting wounds and skin irritations.

The Hopi made tea from the leaves as a medicine for digestive problems, headaches and colds. It is used for similar medicinal purposes by the Navajo.

Many dyers and weavers use the plant to obtain a range of greens and yellows. When fibers are premordanted with alum, strong yellows can be achieved (see below). When it is unmordanted, the plant yields a softer buttery hue. Navajo dye recipes sometimes include juniper branches or other plants that have tannin and oxalic acid so that the fiber does not need to be mordanted.

The following recipe is from Rebecca Burgess' Book, Harvesting Color:


Sagebrush grows in large communities, so you can trim, prune, and take a nice long walk all at once. You can harvest from late May until the end of is best to harvest when the sage is beginning to send up its small, discreet yellow flowers. 


Ratio of 3:1, sagebrush stem weight to fiber weight

*Fiber can be premordanted in alum or left unmordanted, depending on your desired color. If you are using cellulose fibers, it is recommended that you mordant the fiber. The nettle fiber pictured was mordanted with alum.

Add sagebrush to your dye pot and cover the plant matter with enough water so that your fibers will be able to move freely. Bring the mixture to a boil for up to 1 hour, until the liquid is a strong yellow- or the pot begins to boil over. Add your preheated fiber and reduce the heat to a simmer (185-200'F). Leave the fiber in the pot for at least 1 hour, or until you see the color you like- but keep in mind that the yarn will dry several shades lighter than what you see in the pot, whether mordanted or unmordanted. 


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