Another workshop done!

The second in my little series of workshops at the Guild went really well. There was yarn, fleece and roving dyeing.  Brown, orange, almost-red and maroon from E Scoparia (bark and leaves) and E Cinerea leaves, yellow from silky oak (Grevillea Robusta) using Ida Grae’s recipe from Nature’s Colors: Dyes from Plants, and the ever-astonishing purple from red sanderswood with alum.  I again used Jenny Dean’s method from Wild Colour and still got nothing like the oranges she suggests are likely.


Mysterious outcomes in natural dyeing are not all that uncommon (at least for me!), as the number of variables is so huge.  But this one is out of the box–purple!?  Since my last post on the subject, Jenny Dean has very generously been in touch with her thoughts on the matter.  She suggests this purple could be the result of alkalinity (but given I made no attempt to generate an alkaline bath, it seems unlikely it was seriously alkaline).

Or–and I agree with her that this is much more likely, even though I used 4 different jars/packs labelled “sanderswood”–perhaps the dyestuff  was never sanderswood to begin with.  The colour is very, very like the logwood results I have had, just about indistinguishable.  I am still not complaining about the result–I love purple and so did the participants.  I was hoping for purple on this occasion, as I have no more logwood–that I know to be logwood.  Perhaps there was a time in the past when a batch of “sanderswood” came to our Guild or a supplier nearby and all the different jars I’ve used ultimately can be traced back to the same mislabelled supply. This would fit with my experience of Eucalypts… it is much more likely that I have misidentified my tree than that the dye bath is giving a completely different colour.  Variation to some extent, however, is completely expected.

Here is the “sanderswood” just after I poured boiling water over it–Jenny says this looks like a logwood bath to her.  I bow to her much more extensive experience and wisdom, without hesitation.


I have the biggest chips in a little zippered mesh pouch that must once have held toiletries.  The smallest chips/splinters are in something that looks just like a giant tea ball.  I saw it for sale in a Vietnamese grocery where I was investing in greens, seaweed and soy products and immediately saw its possibilities.  The woman who sold it to me had an eye-popping moment (evidently she hasn’t sold one to an Anglo before), and asked me what I was planning to do with it.  I love those moments in Asian groceries, because once I’ve been ask the question and given my (admittedly bizarre) response, I can ask about the ordinary use of the device or food in question.  This one is usually used to contain whole spices when making a big pot of stock or soup.  This point was helpfully illustrated by a packet of soup seasonings–star anise and cinnamon and coriander seed were some of the spices I could identify right away.

People tried out India  Flint‘s eco-print technique on cotton, wool prefelt and silk.  I hope she will get some extra book sales as a result (if you’d like to acquire her books, click on the link to her blog and look for the option to buy them postage free in the left hand sidebar).


There were biscuits and icy poles and lots of chat.  I demonstrated soy mordanting and black bean dyeing.  And while we were at the Guild and using the copper, which is such a generously sized vessel by comparison with my dye pots, I leaf printed some significant lengths of fabric that I brought to the workshop bundled up and ready to go.  The copper really is copper lined, but I could detect no obvious impact on the colours.  Seedy silk noil:


Wool prefelt… the degree of detail is fantastic.  This is destined for felting experimentation by a dear friend who generously assisted me at the workshop.  Her practical help, support, constant grace and good cheer made things go so smoothly.  I also decided to start some processes before participants arrived, which I didn’t do at the previous workshop.  I think that helped.  But it was a fabulous group of people too.


And finally, silk/hemp blend, destined to be made into a shirt (by me, so it may take a while).  I am delighted with how it turned out, after many months of putting off the day.



Filed under Eucalypts, Leaf prints, Natural dyeing

9 responses to “Another workshop done!

  1. Love your results!
    I need to try dyeing yarn with eucalyptus again…… I got such uninteresting results the first time that I never tried again, but your colors are terrific!
    What kind of eucalyptus gave the wonderful prints in the last two photos? Was it the E Scoparia?
    You are an inspiration to me!


    • Thanks so much! Yes, you’re right… E Scoparia in the last two pictures. I was lucky. When I read India Flint’s Eco-Colour the first time–what a glorious and inspiring book! I caught the train to visit my parents. On the way home, I picked just a few leaves off each different eucalypt I could reach. I finally picked one from the street tree at the end of my street. I now know it was E Scoparia. A total of 8 samples. The others were completely unexciting, but after only about 30 minutes, the bundle with E Scoparia in it started leaking red colour the way your finger does when you’ve cut it and dipped your finger into a sink of water. I was hooked! It was the beginning of a wool-yarn-dyeing adventire of epic proportions. I didn’t take to eco-prints right away because I couldn’t readily source or figure out how to use wool and silk fabrics. Unlike you, I don’t so far weave or felt.


      • 🙂 I have both of India’s books, they are so inspirational!
        My question…. I am under the impression that you have to actually have the yarn in the dye pot along with the euc leaves as you bring it to a boil and extract the pigment. Is this true? And if so, is there a problem with the yarn felting?


      • Well, there are a huge variety of ways to extract pigment from euc leaves and get it onto yarn. Everyone you read will be doing something different, and people I meet at my Guild all do different things to me. We all get colour. You can boil the leaves if you think boiling them is the thing to do, take the leaves out and put the yarn in. I don’t tend to do that: I cook the leaves (they don’t have to boil, a hot steam will do it), then I take as many out as necessary to give the fibre some room and leave the rest and continue cooking. I think it’s best to avoid boiling. It can, but doesn’t always, felt yarn. I’ve certainly achieved partial felting through inadequate heat control. But wool is amazing stuff. You can speak to acid dyers who say they always boil their wool when dyeing. I think it is the agitation of the boiling dyebath that does the felting even more so than the heat itself. But the one comes with the other!


      • Thank you!!
        It would seem that I should just keep on playing around, it’s what I do best! Play!!
        P.S. I would never boil wool, unless it was in a bundle. I felt things just by looking at them! So I’ll try to extract the dye and then go from there….. maybe put the extracted dye and yarn in a large glass jar and see what I can get from solar dyeing!


      • If India Flint hasn’t incited you to experiment, I am not sure I have any hope! But yes, play! I haven’t had a lot of luck with solar dyeing eucs, YMMV. I suggest starting with superwash wool and keeping your dye below boiling point. You can always turn it off and turn it back on to manage the temp if you’re struggling with poor equipment, which I’ve cetrtainly done.


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