LEAVENWORTH — A mallet, a 100% cotton towel, freshly plucked flowers — combined with a little bit of elbow grease, people can dye ordinary cloth transforming it into a colorful exhibit of local plants and flowers.

“It’s just a rainbow of colors,” said Brittany Thurlow, owner of The Plant Ally, a Leavenworth plant business and nursery.

Half a dozen participants at the Wenatchee River Institute on Wednesday dyed white cloth with local plants, leaves and berries by smashing them directly onto the cloth in a dyeing technique known as hapa zome.

Leading the class, Thurlow provided some vibrant flower examples to use for dye as well as instructions on how to best dye using this technique.

The institute, a nonprofit focused on environmental education, held the class on hapa zome outdoors on its 9-acre nature sanctuary located in Leavenworth.

Thurlow said the only thing budding artists need are:

  • Something to dye, like a towel or even cardstock paper
  • A mallet or hammer
  • A sturdy surface like a wooden board or table
  • And fresh, plump flowers, plants or even berries

Basil, marigolds and even yarrow weed are some great options to start with, Thurlow said.

Hapa-Zome printing is a doable process for all ages, Thurlow said. In the past, Thurlow said she has taught preschoolers hapa zome at an outdoor school called Mountain Sprouts, a nonprofit providing outdoor-based early childhood education.

At Wednesday’s outdoor class, adults and children learned about hapa zome side-by-side.

Hapa-zome starts with placing leaves and plants in a pattern on one half of a cloth or piece of paper. Fold it over and then smash the plant with a mallet or hammer.

Some of the participants assembled and squished plant matter in unique patterns that resembled the embroidered designs on cushions. Others tested how vibrant the colors could be resulting in symmetrical jumble of colors like an inkblot test.

Once the plant matter has been sufficiently imprinted, artists need to wait until it has dried before shaking or peeling it off the cloth, Thurlow said.

Experimenting is an important part of the process to see what plants have natural dyes that will work best, Thurlow said. But she offered a word of caution that when foraging for materials to avoid toxic plants.

A list of poisonous plants in the state is available at wwrld.us/plants.

Noxious weeds, though are fair game. They are not necessarily toxic to humans but are harmful to the land. Some of them make great dye.

“You make art, the land gets one less weed,” Thurlow said.

One Wenatchee resident and nature enthusiast, Patti West, said she was excited at the prospect of experimenting at home with different plants to see how they would turn out.

“I’ve got so many plants in my yard at home,” West said. “I have an extensive flower garden. Not much of a vegetable garden because I found out I’m not very good at it, but I can grow a mean, flower garden.”

West said that she expects to sign up for more classes with the Wenatchee River Institute.

Shelley Harwell, visiting her daughter from Texas, said she had already signed up for a basket-weaving class this Sunday.

“I’ve been here for a week, and I’ve been harvesting grasses and different plants,” Harwell said. “I’m just loving it.

Find more Wenatchee River Institute classes and events at wwrld.us/WRI.

Oscar Rodriguez: (509) 665-1179