Dyeing Yarn

After spinning came dyeing. It is hard to tell now how frequently pueblo people colored their yarn and in what shades. Ancient belts and pack straps sometimes show a staining with earth colors-rusty red from haematite, yellow and orange from yellow ochre, turquoise blue from copper sulphate. When cotton came in, the weavers added some vegetable dyes-black, dark brown, and light blue. Women did the dyeing. They made large special pots for the purpose and kept these always clean and untouched by grease. Some recipes, remembered now, mention boiling the dye but there were ceremonial articles for which boiling was not proper. Recipes also mention alunogen, the native alum which can be found in small scattered deposits in the desert. Both pueblos and Navaho use it today to fix dye.

Occasionally, finished fabric was dyed by a method now forgotten in the pueblos but popular among whites. This is tie-dyeing. It meant that knots were tied in the cloth before it was placed in the dye bath. The cloth concealed inside these knots retained its former color, while the rest was dyed. Occasionally, also, cloth was painted in various patterns.

Pueblo people do little yarn dyeing at present though the Navaho, who seem to have learned weaving from them, do a great deal. It is hard to tell how many of the recipes now used by the Navaho were learned from pueblo teachers and how many were worked out by themselves. A few, remembered by old Zuni women or Hopi men about fifty years ago, are given below. Indian students might make an interesting project of looking up others.

Pueblo Native Dyes

Black: Sumac (rhus trilobata) boiled for an hour and a half with clay containing sulphate of iron, aluminum, and magnesium. (Navaho boil it with yellow ochre and pinyon gum) Zu Black seeded sunflower, combined with pinyon gum and ochre H

Blue: Purplish blue, black seeded sunflower, as above. H Dark blue, dark navy bean (cultivated). Light blue, larkspur (Delphinium) All blues, indigo (Indigofera Anil I tintoria) dissolved in children's urine. Shades could be made darker by boiling with black. ;All pueblos

Red: Brownish red, a grass (Thelesperma gracile). H A more elaborate method remembered at Zuni was to soak the yarn for three days in alunogen and native lime (carbonat of calcium). It was removed and washed in yucca suds then boiled with an unidentified plant called mothlana, the vessel being emptied three times and refilled with fresh dye. Finally more alunogen was put in with blossoms of coreopsis (Coreopsis cardaminefolia). This combination also was emptied out three times and the vessel freshly filled.

Pinkish red, purple corn (zea mais). H Pink, pigweed (Amaranthus retroflexus). H Bright red, made by unravelling scarlet cloth. All pueblos

Yellow: Rabbit brush flowers (Chrysothamnus bigelovi, Philostrophe tagelina). H

Green: Made by dyeing yarn yellow by either of the above methods then placing it for a short time in cold blue water. The Hopi got a yellowish green with rabbit brush only. Zu

White: Mix a sandy clay containing gypsum with warm water (not hot). Zu H-Hopi ;Zu-Zuni