Monthly Archives: July 2013

Plum Pine 4: Washfastness

I decided the obvious way to test for washfastness was to wash.  So I embroidered with the plum pine fruit–no mordant–silk thread, and with the plum pine fruit-with alum and cream of tartar on a piece of cotton… and added a little eucalyptus dyed silk thread for good measure.  Not the best example of embroidery ever seen, but it will do the job.  The two upper examples were purple (like the thread on the cards) when they went into a normal wash–30C with eco-detergent.  One wash later, the no-alum sample is grey and the with-alum sample is green-grey.  Eucalyptus shows its true colours yet again.


Yesterday I tried washing my sample cards at 40C with eco-balls (we have laundry variety here, as you will shortly understand) and they were still purple when they came out of the wash.  Interesting… this made me wonder if part of what is going on here about Ph.  Detergent would be more alkaline than eco-balls.

After 4 more washes:


You might remember that I did some darning with my early silk samples.  They have not fared well either–but the mending is still doing the job!  The pink is still pink, but much faded after what I would guess as being about 8-10 washes.  The purple is blue, and paler.


I knit some test samples from my yarns.  They fared better, washed with other woollens, cold with soapnuts rather than detergent (if anything, a slightly acidic wash).  The sample on the right has two shades of plum pine with alum and CoT on BWM alpaca rich, with a band of cotton used to tie the skeins in between because this yarn took so much colour during the dyeing I was curious.  The sample on the left has two shades of plum pine on patonyle (wool and nylon superwash sock yarn and a sample of handspun Wensleydale).  One has gone from purple to grey and the other from purple to blue.  Blue?  Before:


After, with unwashed BWM Alpaca Rich in the background for comparison.


Well then.  Not what you’d call really excellent washfastness. And some new mysteries to ponder, as usual.


Filed under Dye Plants, Dyefastness, Natural dyeing

Unknown Eucalypts


I found an unusual looking eucalypt in bloom on my favourite running track. Which means I had no camera and no bag with me.  This is a small dried sample… The tree has a lovely bronze, smooth trunk, with bark peeling in strips.  Euclid isn’t speaking to me at present but perhaps later identification will be possible with those wonderful red flowers!


There is a smudge of red among the orange leaf prints these leaves gave…

This is my second unidentified eucalypt.  It was growing in Botanic Park when I rode through recently.  It had been raining and this extremely tall tree had lost some twigs, leaves, buds and flowers.  Sadly, no one had given it a name tag for my edification… but it seemed an opportunity too good to miss.


Or on the other hand… further evidence that there are Eucalypts which give very little colour!



Filed under Dye Plants, Eucalypts, Leaf prints

Guess what I saw in Sydney…

I’m in Sydney on holiday and today I went to Taronga zoo, which is on Sydney Harbour. The views are spectacular.


So are the animals. I especially loved seeing some of the nocturnal native animals like quolls and bilbies, but there wasn’t a lot of point in trying to take pictures. Likewise for the spectacular but small corroboree frog. However, one of our national emblems was entirely obliging.


And… There were so many beautiful plants. Including Austral Indigo. Here it is in between some trees, growing in grass. Can you pick it out? This plant is about waist high. It is not a dense shrub by anyone’s measure.


And while we’re looking at native plants… Sydney is a great place for banksias. Here is one lovely specimen.


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Filed under Dye Plants

Who knew embroidery could be so much fun?


I have been so inspired by other dyers’ work with naturally dyed embroidery thread that I decided a while back that perhaps I could include some silk thread in my many dye pots.  I dyed a large quantity of wool in small batches over the last few months, so there have been quite a few opportunities.  Really, I had friends who like to embroider in mind at the time.  I thought I could gift them my little lengths of dyed thread.  However, a vast new plan has sprung into my mind.  I dug out the embroidery hoop I brought home from an op shop years back, but have never used.  It helps enormously but also makes embroidery rather louder than I had anticipated, as if the fabric were a drumhead!  I did not expect to find embroidery so thrilling, or so noisy.

This new project has had me out and about in the neighbourhood visiting species of eucalypt I use less.  There have been some  surprises.  The two spindly E Websterianas with their minnirichi bark and their heart-shaped leaves are gone!  They were not thriving in that location just a few blocks away, I admit.  But I am sorry to have lost them (let alone that someone probably took all that leafage to the dump).

Another day I went to two different E Scoparias, walking further to get to the one which dependably hangs low when I couldn’t reach the leaves of the closest.  Gone was the lush straggly undergrowth that used to surround it, and gone was the low hanging branch.  I am not sure whom it had offended.


At least the tree is still there, snuggled up to an equally large carob tree.  Since major infrastructure came to my neighbourhood and trucks became a constant form of traffic through streets large, medium and small, the low hanging branches of many of my favourite trees have been removed.  Apparently no one was considering the suburban gleaner at the time…

On a subsequent trip, I discovered that the largest, most luxurious E Scoparia in my neighbourhood, whose tree hating neighbour had me worried when I was collecting bark, has been pruned with a chain saw so that no longer do its lovely leaves hang anywhere I will be able to reach them without a ladder.  Luckily, the bark will fall where I can reach it, and the tree is still there despite having such a determined human enemy.


Filed under Dye Plants, Eucalypts, Leaf prints, Natural dyeing, Sewing

Davidson’s Plum

In the interests of experimentation, when I came across some fallen Davidson’s Plums recently, I picked them up and carried them home.  As you do!


This is a rainforest tree, native to Queensland: Davidsonia Pruriens.


It’s narrow and tall and the fruit are surprisingly large (many native fruits are small by comparison with the European cultivated fruits they reminded colonists about).


There might be a way to get colour from these fruits.  But the way I chose (cooking the fruit and applying to alum mordanted fibre) is not really one of them.  The alum mordanted wool turned a pale tan–and this may be a generous interpretatio– and the alum mordanted silk became ever such a pastel shade of apricot.

IMAG1775 (1)


Filed under Dye Plants, Natural dyeing

Tour de Fleece continues…

Have I mentioned that I’m participating in the Tour de Fleece, spinning each day during the Tour de France?  Clearly this strikes a lot of people as a truly bizarre and quaint pastime. I am not an especially sports loving person, so from my point of view, this is great sport!

I have been spinning more of my eucalyptus dyed grey corriedale.  I loved the 3 ply yarn I made from it, but it isn’t going to make gauge for the cardigan I now have in mind and will stripe in a way that won’t work for it either.  This may be a clue that I should make the cardigan from some other fibre, of course, but I decided to try 2 ply, which raises entirely different issues about colour blending.


I’m struggling to get the colours to show right in photos… but this approach clearly will even out the colour variations without making them disappear.  And perhaps it is time to try a swatch to discover how I am doing on gauge.  I have been feeling squeamish since plying… two plies of different colours is not something I would usually be aiming to achieve.  My beloved has offered the view that the yarn is lovely and will look ‘tweedy’, which sounds good to me…


Filed under Eucalypts, Natural dyeing, Spinning

Leaves on wool

I have been planning some bundles for quite some time.  And, quite frankly, wanting to wear these woolies and not prepared to do that until they are dyed, which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.  Finally, the time came!  Naturally, it came after the sun went down, and hence the quality of this picture.


The leaves were collected on a rainy day’s outing when we happened to be passing some trees I know of.  My companions were prepared to stop and humour me.  They stayed in the car and I studiously ignored passersby while harvesting.  This one is E Calycogona Calycogona. Front:






E Kingsmillii Alatissima: Front


Back:  IMAG1773

And a particularly lovely detail:


I think it would have been better if these bundles spent longer in the pot and my sense of design was better… but I am nevertheless happy.  Just between you & me, I like heading out into the world with secret leaves twining up (or down) my body.  Secret, since these are layers which I don’t usually wear on the outside.  It’s a quiet comfort, especially given the extra warmth of the wool.


Filed under Dye Plants, Eucalypts, Leaf prints

Eucalyptus Calycogona subsp Calycogona

While on the path of trees helpfully labelled in Botanic Park… I bring you E Calycogona Calycogona. It is native to Western Australia.  Here it is flowering generously in early June in Adelaide.



And what a result in the dye bath!  Every fallen bud cap printed.


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Filed under Dye Plants, Eucalypts, Leaf prints

Cortinarius Archeri

The gifts of mushrooms continue!  My neighbour the mycologist came around with a gift of Cortinarius Archeri in many shades of purple.  He had heard they could be used for dyeing, would I like to try them out?  Aren’t they glorious?


I have read about European dyers using Cortinarius semisanguineus, and Leena from Riihivilla has written extensively about how she uses them. So I weighed my mushrooms and put them to soak on 30 June.  Well, after 9 days the mushrooms were fermenting.  Let’s not discuss the smell.  And, on second thoughts, they were so beautiful when they were whole, perhaps I won’t share a picture either.  I regret to report that no colour resulted from this experiment.  On the other hand, when I reported this to my neighbour, he offered me something else…


Filed under Uncategorized

Eucalyptus colours over grey wool

I have a lot of Polwarth fleece, both brown and variegated white/tan. All of it gifted from pet sheep that live nearby.  It is a privilege and it is also a difficulty.  Washing fleece so fine and so greasy has been intimidating as well as slow.  I have spun some in the grease, and washed some twice, and tried several different washing approaches.  I have dyed and spun and spun and dyed.  Two and three ply, corespun. you name it! I spun and knit an entire cardigan from naturally brown Polwarth, too.

And then one day someone at Guild said “I hate fine fleeces!” in my hearing, and it occurred to me that I do not have to spin it for the rest of my life.  I lashed out and bought a considerable quantity (3.5 kg) of grey Corriedale (nothing to approach the stash of Polwarth, mind you) and it has been heavenly.  I love grey fleece, and this is the loveliest corriedale I’ve ever had the pleasure to spin.

I have been dyeing it with eucalypt leaves and bark.  I have oranges of many shades from rust and brick to flame to gentle sunset.


I have burgundy and plum.


And I also have some tans and walnuts.  It appears I collected some bark that wasn’t exactly what I thought I had collected.  But to be honest, I think these are lovely additions in this context.  I’ve begun spinning yarns of many hues, chain plying to maintain the colour contrasts.  Lovely.  It’s hard to believe I can find these colours through combining bark and hot water and time with wool.


Now… I have figured out that what I would really like to do with at least some of this wool is knit a particular cardigan.  And my beautful 3 ply yarn is too thick to make gauge for it!  Possibly also for the design I have in mind those colour changes will not be ideal.  So, I am about to embark on two ply yarns.  This is my Tour de Fleece project.


Filed under Eucalypts, Fibre preparation, Natural dyeing, Spinning