Thursday, August 1, 2013


I started eco-dyeing in the summer of 2011 purely for the fun of it. Reading India Flint's Book, ECO COLOUR, I learned that silk and wool were the easiest to work with because no mordant was really needed to set the color obtained. I found a white silk shirt in my closet I hadn't worn for at least 10 years so I ripped every seam and used every last scrap of that shirt for dyeing and printing. I WAS HOOKED and spent the rest of the summer and the summer of 2012 experimenting with India's techniques. I used whatever leaf, flower, scrap of fabric I could find. The joy was in the pure fun of being outside, gathering botanicals and bringing them in to cook up a witch's brew of nature.
This summer I have found myself more interested in using native plants of the area I live in. What I have learned is that way back when the  city of Colorado springs was founded it was a treeless and barren area. Considered a high desert. there was not a lot of botanical beauty that would make anyone want to found a city here. But there were other reasons why General Palmer decided to go ahead and found the city of Colorado Springs. I won't go into that here. Suffice is to say he made a good decision. Here is a picture of the young city with newly planted trees to help shade the young city. (picture  taken from Wellsprings, A History of the Pikes Peak Region, edited by Jan Mowle.)
 Those trees were imported and reported to be Cottonwoods. Supposedly thousands were planted to make the growing city more habitable. Many of them died and were replaced by Maple, Elm and Ash. I've read that these trees as well as the Cottonwoods were trees that would remind the people of their east coast home. I've also been told that they used whatever was available since, of  course, there weren't many tree nurseries at that time.

Today I live in Manitou Springs. About 5 miles down the road due west from Colorado Springs, it was founded at about the same time. A little higher in elevation at 6200 feet, it is a foothills climate with more evergreen trees and a variety of deciduous trees along the creeks, but still a pretty barren area especially since a fire had come through the area in the 1850's. Here's a picture of early Manitou, compliment of Historic Manitou Inc. published in the Wellspring book noted above.
 Manitou also planted many trees to shade the main street but because of floods, widening of streets, widening of sidewalks, and just plain development, there are few trees that are historical to the area along the main street. There are  old willows and cottonwoods along the creeks in town which is quite wonderful to have at least a few trees of historical significance.

There is so much more to research, but for now I am having fun eco-printing with cottonwood leaves which mean so much more to me now that I know their history in the area. Here's a journal I made presently listed in my etsy shop


  1. Hmmmm...It's not quite the same, but perhaps it's related to the aspen that are prolific here in Central Alberta, and which are so very pretty in the fall...I continue to be interested in trees and your post has added to my internal information...

  2. Yes, Margaret they are very similar. Aspen--Populus tremuloides and Cottonwood--Populus Deltoides

  3. This is such a wonderful post on the history of your place. I'm a huge fan of delving into historical backgrounds to get a truer sense of things. An inspiring post, thank you!