Hopi Sunflower

Helianthus annuus macrocarpus

Hopi Sunflower in the garden

Dried Hopi Sunflower

Hopi Sunflowers are native to the Americas and are thought to have been domesticated as early as 3600 BC, but it is not certain if this happened in Northern Mexico, the Southwestern US, or the Mississippi River Valley. They also grow in washes where water collects.

Traditionally, Hopi People used sunflowers to make dyes for cotton, wool, and basketry. They used irrigated terraces fed by natural springs on the sides of the Mesas surrounding their territory. Other traditional uses include salves for insect/snake bites and medicine to lower blood sugar and anxiety.

Directly sow outdoors from seeds after the last frost, or sow indoors 2-3 weeks before the last frost. Space seeds 18-24 inches and 1/2 inch deep. Mounding the soil around the base of the stalks is recommended to help keep the plants upright, however, some may still need to be staked. Hopi Sunflower requires moderate water and full sun.

Harvesting begins when blooms reached their fullest and seeds began to dry out slightly. To harvest, use clippers to cut the base of the flower from the tip of the stalk.

Hopi Sunflower seeds can produce a multitude of deep warm-toned shades such as maroon, dark purple, deep lavender, medium blue, and navy-black dye.

To dye, a liquid dye stock is made by adding seeds to boiling water and simmering until the seeds split open. Strain through a cheesecloth to achieve a deep maroon liquid. Place desired fabric into warm liquid and let cool overnight. To achieve a deep purple color, add alum to the dye stock. For black dye, add iron to the stock. Soy milk can be used as mordant if a light lavender color is desired. Petals can also be used in fresh bundle dying. Fabric should be mordanted when working with sunflower.

Fabric should be mordanted before dyeing with Hopi sunflower.

Dye concentrate recipe:

60 grams dried whole sunflower (seeds and petals)

48 ounces water

Simmer mordanted fabric in dyestuff for 1 hour at 140° Fahrenheit.

Let fabric soak in dye bath for 24 hours at room temperature, then strain and rinse.