When I started plant dyeing, I used to make a tiny skein, about 1-2 metres long, and try out the leaves of trees around my neighbourhood on that. In those early days, I tried rue after I found it listed in a book… oh my goodness… the least said about that smell, the better. It almost put me off for good. (Pale green, if anyone is wondering–not the red I was hoping for in my naivete). When I had accumulated enough experiments to have identified some trees I wanted to keep visiting and some I would appreciate but not use for dye, I knit the samples into striped socks for a dear longtime friend. So that method had its advantages. My friend asked for short cuffs (well, I thought he had–), so that’s what he got.
I may have mentioned my devil-may-care attiutude to matching socks. Happily my friend shares it, or he wouldn’t have scored this pair!
Eventually I learned about sample cards from more experienced dyers on Ravelry.
I use milk bottles to make mine. We don’t use this kind at home any more, so I raided a recycling bin at a coffee cart during the weekly farmers’ market to get these.
I keep my samples on a split ring, which I think I also saw on Ravelry, and it’s a great record of plants investigated. Some have been identified long after being cooked in the dyepot. A few have been identified correctly after an initial misidentification. Some have been tried several times.
And there are still so many to try out! In the lead up to the recent workshops, I collected leaves fresh and dried: from trees, from the gutter, from fallen branches. I collected more bark too. This one is Eucalyptus Forrestiana, believe:
And I collected a few specimens I couldn’t identify… This one branched so high I couldn’t pick a leaf, but bud caps were raining down and lorikeets were having a great party high above me.
This one was a sprawling mallee near the railway line, and came complete with new holland honeyeaters protesting my invasion. I hope they had chicks in there somewhere, and this was the reason they kept trying to see me off even though they are about the length of my hand.
This tree has fascinated me for some time: it gives a peach or apricot colour. But I still can’t identify it.
So many possibilities for the future….