Tuesday, June 10, 2014


I started a series of books last June to document plants found in my area of Colorado. Using the eco print process, leaves gathered from my daily walks, my garden and donations from neighbors, I have learned so much about the native and introduced plants of this high desert-foothills region of the Rocky mountains. I created 4 books:  Book 1, June JUNE JULY AUGUST; Book 2, SEPTEMBER OCTOBER NOVEMBER; Book 3, DECEMBER JANUARY FEBRUARY; Book 4, MARCH APRIL MAY. The first 2 books show a range of pigment changes as the seasons, as well as the leaf pigments, change. For book 3, I manipulated the colors obtained by using an iron mordant (rusty bits in a vinegar and water solution) and the iron rich spring water of a natural spring in Manitou. Manipulations were also done with the last and most current book. Spring comes late to the Rocky mountains so there was little to print with until well into April so I sprinkled papers with cochineal powder to give them some oomph.

DECEMBER JANUARY FEBRUARY (honey locust seed pod, juniper berries)


The pale prints against the white background reminds me of the first bursts of color coming through snow. And the dash of cochineal is the color of my peonies which sadly don't print.

Back Cover

open book with flags*

Inside front cover--orange is threadleaf coreopsis

teal green squiggles--lavender blue iris
Rocky Mountain Juniper splashed with Cochineal

Chokecherry and Willows

"Crimson King" Norway Maple, Peach Leaf Willow, Coreopsis, Dwarf Barberry

Plants used for Book 4:  Threadleaf Coreopsis, Peach Leaf Willow, Fennel, Norway Maple, Chokecherry, Salvia, Plains Cottonwood, Lanceleaf Cottonwood, Aspen, Silver maple, Crapapple leaf and blossom, Rocky Mountain Juniper, Pansy, Grape Hyacinth, Iris(not sure of what type; a lavender blue color from a dear friend)

Now I begin again. This time using silk fabric and a different book format.
* flags were mordanted with alum; cover papers were unmordanted

Thursday, March 13, 2014


In February we had  a few days of rapid fire snow storms. I shoveled four days in one week (which is a lot for my part of Colorado). I decided to collect some in pots and buckets, and melted enough for a red cabbage dyeing session. Sounds like  a lot of trouble, but it was worth it to me because I wanted to see the difference between it and our tap water which is actually derived from snow in the mountains right above my town. I've always heard that our water is very pure because we are so close to the source. It's not traveling great distances or treated extensively. Unfortunately, I cannot find my swatches from the tap water dye bath so I don't have a photograph, but I can tell you there was very little difference between the tap and the snow, which is what I expected.. Here is a photo of the fabric pieces dyed using melted snow. I tried 3 different kinds of silk and vintage cotton and washed the fabric after dyeing. Lost some color but this is what I was left with. I also left swatches of the snow dye in my light filled sunroom for 2 weeks. Those swatches are on the bottom half of the photo. Not much difference. It will be interesting to see the changes given more time as I already know that red cabbage isn't very lightfast. But depending on how one uses the fabric and how much light it will be exposed to, it can still be a good source of coloring cloth.  And as India Flint says, you can always re-dye the cloth.
 Then I tried water from 2 of the many mineral springs in Manitou. All of spring waters are alkaline in nature and the pigments in red cabbage are very reactive to alkalinity, so I used water from the springs with the lowest alkalinity. Results were striking, as seen in the photo below. Cabbage and water immediately turned this teal green color. Only the vintage cotton mordanted with alum picked up an appreciable amount of pigment. Silks and wool felt picked up little if any pigment. So I am still trying to figure out what happened here. Did the alkalinity and presence of other minerals destroy or make the pigment unavailable? Did the alum help the cotton pickup what little pigment might be available?
Lots to think about here and I think I really need this book: NATURAL DYES, by Dominique Cardon. It's very expensive but has lots of info on the science of dyeing with natural pigments which is very interesting to me.

Friday, February 21, 2014


Vintage linen dyed in indigo during an online class taken 4 years ago.
 Scrap paper stained with rusty objects.
 Eco printed silk left out in the cold for months.
Sometimes disparate pieces come together to form a whole. Really needed this life lesson right now .

Thursday, February 13, 2014


With all the changes that Etsy has made in the last year, I have decided to close my shop  and join Big Cartel. Etsy isn't about handmade anymore. It's just about money. Making lots of money was never my goal for having an online store. It was just to have an online presence for people to view what I do and purchase if they wanted to.  So this is very much an ethical decision rather than a financial one.  Big Cartel offers one set fee and none of the hassle of constantly renewing product as well as keeping up on whatever Etsy might decide to change tomorrow. So my new shop address is http://peggydlugos.bigcartel.com . I'll be adding product over the next several days.

Thursday, February 6, 2014


Last Fall I soaked a few cherry branches and stems in some of Manitou Spring's iron rich water*. I soaked some vintage cotton along with the branches and left them to soak for 48 hours. Then I  wrapped the branches in the fabric and steamed them and let them to cure for a week. Upon unwrapping I immediately saw this landscape. This is all nature's doing (except for the sketch of the tree on the left.) Click on the image for a larger view.
 My original plan was to "bring out" the landscape with stitch. Define the areas with thread marks to "improve" the scene. After two days of stitching, ripping, stitching, ripping, getting angry, stitching and ripping some more, I remembered my motto for 2013's year of eco-dyeing: Accept the gift which nature has to offer." Don't try to force things; don't ask mother nature to produce something similar to a rubber stamp image. Just look for the magic in what I have, not in what I wish I had. I was so pleased with the scene my eye was seeing in the lines created by the contact of the branches with the fabric and the shapes made by the bleed of the pigments. But then I lost myself in trying to make things too realistic and not trusting that a viewer's brain could also fill in the blanks and imagine the trees, bushes, water, etc. So after more ripping this is what I have now.

There is still more ripping to do. In the foreground you'll notice a line of white stitching, It's covering up the resist mark made by a stem which gives a nice line in the landscape. The stitching, to me, just makes it too obvious and like I am trying to control the scene too much. Ripple marks in the water on the right, they are going too. The only stitch I really like is the tree. I think it provides a nice focal point and adds to the mood of the scene.
So I would love to hear your thoughts. Do you go by the less is more, or more is more line of thought. I think I use both approaches but I am getting better at discerning when it is best to use one over the other.
*Iron Spring water contains 13.30ppm (equals milligrams per liter) of iron. When you initially  collect the water, it looks clear, but after settling for a few hours you can see red stuff floating around in it. GROSSSSSSSSSSSS. Which is why I dye with it and don't drink it.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014


I love scraps. The smallest piece can make my heart sing. I love to go through my piles, looking at what is left over from other projects. What I have come to learn is that working with the scraps is what makes me happiest. Making a whole out of disparate parts. So the last two snow days allowed me time to do so. Indigos and rust prints made on cast off linens and cottons come together with old paper and cardstock; cuts from watercolor papers used to make contact prints become book covers; small pieces of paper from larger book making adventures become the perfect size for the pages of souvenir books of summertime leaf printing. Small pieces of vintage threads become the ties that bind it all together.

And after being inside for way too long, I went out and shoveled snow to melt for my next dye experiments with red cabbage.

Sunday, January 19, 2014


I spent the week working with carrot tops saved from our summer garden. We keep our carrots in  the ground until we need them or the ground freezes. With the mild autumn we had, we still had some in the ground until the first week of December. Not bad for Colorado! Each time we brought some in from the garden I stored the tops in the freezer. Since doing this I learned that it would be better to store them dry. Will have to try that next year.
So with the amount of tops I ended up with I was able to test three different mineral springs against tap water.  "The spring water of Manitou Springs originates from 2 sources. Deep-seated waters of the Rampart Range and Ute Pass provide one source of mineral water. Water below surface is run through cavernous drainage systems call Karst aquifiers. Limestone in the water dissolves and resulting carbonic acid, or carbon dioxide makes the water effervescent. The waters rises to the surface naturally. This process is an  artesian process where as water rises through layers of rock it picks up minerals and soda or sodium bicarbonate. Some of the spring water also  comes from surface water from the watershed basins of Fountain Creek and Williams Canyon. Each spring has a different mineral content and because of that, a different taste."* And for my purposes a difference in dye color achieved. (Side note: You may remember hearing about flooding in Colorado this past summer. A lot of it was in the Fountain Creek and Williams Canyon area mentioned above. All of this flooding was due to the Waldo Canyon fire in 2012 which left the hillsides bare and ripe for flash floods. Because the mineral springs are below ground they were not contaminated by the ash that came down in the flood.)

Top left scraps photo are silk dyed in Wheeler spring water which has the highest amount of copper. Middle two fabrics (silk left, vintage cotton right) were dyed in Seven Minute Spring water which has an even distribution of all minerals. Love the color of the vintage cotton(premordant with alum). Right three scraps are two different types of silk and a vintage cotton dyed in tap water. The middle  piece of silk was wrapped around a copper pipe. Not very visible in the photo but there is a difference in color between it and the left silk without the copper pipe.

Next row is silk and vintage cotton dyed in Iron spring water named because of its high content of iron. Again not very visible in the photo, but a more muted, grayed green.

So I'm out of carrot tops for now.  There are still two more springs I want to test with carrot tops but that will have to wait till next summer's crop.

This week I'll be in the library researching Dr. William Bell, founder of Manitou Spring. I know that he and his wife had a garden, and I would like to find out what they planted and if any were dye plants.

*Manitou Springs Mineral Foundation