In the beginning, when I’d read the Handweavers and Spinners Guild of Victoria Dyemaking with Australian Flora (1974) and perhaps Jean Carman’s Dyemaking with Eucalypts (1978) and knew just about nothing about identifying eucalypts, I used to just choose a tree at random and try it out on some wool. Sometimes that is still the thing to do!
Last week I had a testing trip home from work by public transport. It took one and a half times as long as doing the trip by bike would have done, partly because I travelled on a bus route further from home and walked a good way. So I looked for entertainment on my walk. This rough barked tree was in flower (small, cream-white flowers) and hanging through a park fence.
I kept walking.and came across this tree with its spectacular peeling bark and bronzed trunk by the tramline. There was a broken branch still hanging suspended from the intact branches, so I broke off enough dried leaves to make a meaningful test dye bath.
Along the tramline closer to home, I saw this beauty with coppery bark (suggesting it might be a mallet, I believe) but quite a broad leaf by comparison with the family member I know best, the swamp mallet, E Spathulata. A few more leaves selected.
Finally, I passed a friend’s place. His neighbour’s house had been demolished that day and part of the crepe myrtle (Lagerstroemia Indica) on the street had been a casualty, so I picked a sample of that, too, and when he came out of his garden, there was a chat to be had as well. Crepe myrtle turns out not o be an indigenous species.
And now for the (dyeing) punchline. I won’t be losing sleep identifying these trees! That’s the crepe myrtle to the left. You can see the leaves have acted as a resist to the iron in my bath, with some tan patterning from the leaves themselves.
And… here is the result from the dried leaf dye bath from the tree with bark peeling in strips. Tan or brown, depending.