As I suggested earlier… it was once more into the dyepot for my kilogram of wool. This time, Landscapes ‘Bloodwood’. I am still soaking and rinsing it, but I am much happier with the outcome so far. Here it is in the dyepot for the second time:
The silk noil printed beautifully and perhaps it will become pillowslips…
And my efforts to spin bulky, soft, squishy yarn are yielding some improvements. This is polwarth from a pet sheep that lives in the hills, carded and spun three ply. The sheep is mostly white with a pale brown patch or two so I can create yarns with some variegation, which I love.
There are some big trees in my neighbourhood. Some are Eucalyptus Citriodora (lemon scented gum), which is a spectacular tree but gives no colour to speak of. On the other hand, in summer it drops so many leaves I can collect sackfuls for mulch and chook bedding and they smell awesome.
One of the other major street tress around here is E Sideroxylon (Mugga, red ironbark). My neighbour has one in the backyard. Right next to it is a Grevillea Robusta (Silky Oak), also native to Australia. Mugga leaves give orange and the silky oak gives a sensational yellow, also from the leaves. Here is the Mugga–with some detail of the leaves:
Here is the tree–hard to give a sense of scale. There are some huge specimens planted as street trees in my suburb, but presumably in a forest they would be still bigger!
And here are both trees, side by side.
On a much smaller scale, there are Eucalypts I have read about in the work of other dyers which I haven’t found growing in my wanderings around my city (well, not that I was able to recognise as yet) So I also have some in pots.
E Nicholii on the left and E Melliodora on the right. I have done a few leaf prints with these two but there is no immediate danger I’ll be dyeing a skein of wool with them! Eventually I might need to find a spot in the neighbourhood that needs a tree and plant them where they can grow taller…
Introducing one of my neighbourhood dye plants. It is a Eucalyptus tree, but after many efforts, I still can’t say what specific kind of Eucalypt it is. I have books and I even have Euclid, but I am up against the limits of my own ignorance and the complexity of the task given the hundreds of different varieties of Eucalypt Australia has to offer.
But I can say that this tree is beautiful and that it gives rust-orange-maroon just depending on the method, whether I use leaves or bark, the ratio of plant material to fibre and my luck on the day. Here it is, beside the tram track, with a close up of the trunk. It is opposite number 23, Railway Tce South. It branches so high up that I visit for fallen leaves after it has been really windy, but mostly I collect bark when it is peeling–later in the year.
My garden can tell that the coldest part of winter has passed and the days are lengthening. Our street trees (Manchurian Pear) are in bloom. My vegetables and herbs have sprung into life. The chooks have begun to lay again. The fruit trees are in bud, in flower or beginning to leaf up. Even the dye plants are springing to life. The dyer’s chamomile is looking lush:
The austral indigo (indigofera australis) is in flower, though disappointingly it lost a lot of leaves over the colder months. I have not been able to find a source of Japanese Indigo seeds and have had no success with Woad seed as yet. So this is my theoretical source of blue natural dye…
The madder has poked its head up after having died back completely. I think it might be time for me to look up when I could try dyeing with the roots… I have been growing it for two years now and divided it to give some away twice in that time, as well as moving it from one house to another. It seems to be coming on just fine. You can see from all that madder-straw that it was much bigger before the cold sent it back under ground:
And, of course, there are the buckets. On the left, chicken happiness (weeds, mostly). On the right, dinner. Since the chooks are laying and the weeds are growing and the silverbeet is in full flight, I made two spinach and weed pies last night with dill and parsley, silverbeet, dandelion, prickly lettuce and sow thistle. Mmmmm.
When I was in high school, I became fascinated by herbs. I’ve spent a long time learning about them and growing them. I used to read Mrs Grieve’s Herbal (the only one I had) back then and marvel at what a hedgerow was and all the wonder she was able to find in her hedgerow. Later, as na adult, when I took up keeping chooks I decided I really needed to learn to identify weeds so that I wouldn’t poison them. I know now that chooks know what to eat and what to avoid better than we do. I also realise that a lot of things that were growing in Mrs Grieve’s hedgerow were growing as weeds in my suburb and it was only that I didn’t recognise them. But I’ve learned a lot about weeds and their uses.
When I went to Greece a few years back I asked what was in a delicious dish I was eating, and the cook said ‘things they call weeds in England’. We didn’t have enough common language for me to understand what plants she meant or whether they grew here. It was a breakthrough for me though. I had tried eating weeds before but not found it interesting enough to keep doing when I could grow lettuce and spinach. Now that I see cooking them and including them in dishes where steamed greens make sense is the way to go… I eat weeds when my favourites are young and plentiful. The chooks don’t seem to miss the ones we eat!
This weekend I had some major dye plans. I bought enough wool to make myself a jumper (I am thinking Swirled Pentagons by Norah Gaughan), but I bought it in white (it was bargainacious). I thought I’d just dye it. Easy, huh? Dyeing a kilogram of wool is a big undertaking for me, so I decided I may as well make dyeing the focus of my weekend. I told a friend and she came round ready to leaf print yesterday, with an entire woollen blanket that was ready for improvement.
So here we are laying out leaves… these are on some smooth silk noil. It is in the dye pot now as I couldn’t fit it in yesterday…
Here’s the blanket bundle before…
Some of our bundles during…
And here is the blanket afterward, just unwrapped.
My other dye job looked all right to begin with but there are some very dark patches–perhaps I did not dissolve the dye properly. Now I have it out of the dye pot I think a second attempt might be called for! The dye is Landscapes ‘Plum’. Here it is in the pot, looking quite good, really:
I may have to rescue it by overdyeing. I am considering ‘Bloodwood’–failing all else, ‘Currawong’ (that is, black)! So, some successes and some failures. Some alpaca that I tried out my new combs on came out beautifully, and here is the finished yarn. After my plum episode, I’m not ready to consider dyeing this! It was a gift from a friend whose generous partner came home from a drive with not one, but several alpaca fleeces. Thanks to them both for this sample.
Since reading India Flint’s wonderful book Eco-Colour (2008), I have spent many an hour experimenting with her concept of the eco-print. Flint focuses on printing on wool and silk, and I highly recommend her books and blog. Since I do much more sewing with cotton, linen and hemp (and have made only a few special things from silk and wool)… I have experimented at length to get eucalyptus leaf prints onto cotton and linen fabrics. More of that later. But recently I leaf printed some woolen thermal underwear for a friend (and couldn’t wait for sun to take a picture before I handed them to her–I’m impatient that way). But I also dyed this for myself… Colour me happy with the result!
It’s a cold, windy and wet night tonight. So I’ve tucked myself in at home and I’m finally starting up a blog where I’m hoping to tell some stories about my passion for making… it is certainly a night for staying warm. A night for slippers and shawl and spinning wheel, I think!
In posts to come, I’ll be talking about growing and dyeing with plants, spinning yarn, sewing, knitting and other slow ways of bringing into being things that are hand made, useful, lovely and one-of-a-kind.
I love to source what I can locally and to reuse when I can. Today I’ve been preparing hand spun yarns, including some dyed with Eucalyptus leaves and bark, because I’ve decided to enter the local show. Last year I was sad to see how few spinning entries there were. So, I’ve entered several categories where I hope to show people who come to look that spinning isn’t a dying craft!
Here is one of my entries: corespun natural fibres on a simulplied core (using techniques learned from the work of the wonderful Jacey Boggs). The orange fibre is eucalypt dyed merino and the pale pink is finely shredded eucalypt printed linen fabric.