So many moths! I spent time at wormspit and learned this one is female, with yellow eggs visible through her skin.
They just kept emerging!
Many, many moths.
Last night the four friends at our house considered whether the silk moths should stay indoors or be released in the garden, where they can have sunlight, air and plants but may become someone else’s dinner.
The garden won. For the rest of their short lives, when they will not even eat… They will be in the garden.
We sat awhile appreciating their beauty and fragility.
Alyogne Huegelii is a spectacular flowering shrub that is native to Western Australia. It is drought hardy but blooms profusely, and this very much explains its popularity in gardens here in Adelaide. There are a couple of these shrubs flowering spectacularly in my neighbourhood at the moment.
One of the things I really like about natural dyeing is the fact that you can enjoy flowers, gather them as they fall or pass their best, and have the joy of the flower as well as your dyepot. So I have been stopping by to collect fallen flowers from the footpath and the gutter, and pulling withered blooms that will not re-open.
I crammed the dried petals into my jar along with some vinegar, foil, water and a woolen sample card. For those who are not familiar, this is India Flint’s Stuff, Steep and Store process. I have no idea if these flowers will yield dye–they are from the same plant family as hibiscus (and hibiscus petal yield dye)–so they do seem promising–but they are free and readily available and there is nothing but time to be lost by trying them out. I might learn something!
After cooking, I had a deep purple dyebath in my jar. So I gave it a label, added it to my collection, and now we wait. It belatedly occurred to me to check my reference books. The Handweavers and Spinners Guild of Victoria’s Dyemaking with Australian Flora (1974) reports that they achieved pink-fawn using cream of tartar as a mordant (I haven’t heard of cream of tartar being used without alum, so I have learned something already). They also achieved green and pale lemon with chrome, which I am not prepared to use. My sample card has alum-mordanted and rhubarb-leaf mordanted sample yarns, as well as an unmordanted sample–and the jar contains aluminium foil. Joyce Lloyd and India Flint’s books are silent on the matter. So–we’ll just have to see what happens.
I later decided on an alkaline jar, since hibiscus dyes are ph sensitive, and created another. It leaked green liquid when I heated it, but the jar as a whole doesn’t look green (yet).
Oh. And, we have moths.
It has been a week of illness in our household, so this is a late update. As I write this morning, there is just one silkworm left munching. The rest are safely cocooned or in the process of creating cocoons. On Tuesday, there were only a few more. Mercifully, a friend at the Guild gave me a bag of mulberry leaves last week–bless her generous heart.
I can confirm that I don’t know why some cocoons are golden yellow and some are cool white. I marked their tubes as they went in during the last week, and there is no obvious relationship between the cream silkworms on the one hand and the stripy ones on the other–and cocoon colour.
Meanwhile, the garden is a riot of green vegetables and herbs running to seed (chicory, lettuce, kale, dill and parsley) and flowers. There are at least three varieties of poppy blooming, and bees rolling around gleefully in the bowl of the larger flowers.
The pelargonium is even more glorious than last year, too and some of the iris tubers I bought at the Guild turn out to be deep purple (I thought they were all yellow)… so my thoughts are turning to more preservation dyeing. Petal collecting has commenced!
I came into a lot of fabric and various other items from a friend’s mother a while back, as some of you might remember. Most of it I found happy homes for among friends and their connections, and through the Guild. However, I did keep all the calico and other forms of plain, undyed natural fibre fabrics. There was cotton sheeting, parts of calico sacks, pieces of cotton fabric from which some item or other had been cut, and some small pieces of linen that might have been intended for embroidery. There was one piece of raw silk, too, I believe. The cottons joined the other fabrics that have been queued up for the soybean bath.
I have also been re-mordanting fabrics that didn’t turn out as I had hoped, and some that I mordanted with tannin to no especially good effect in the past. Here is one such piece of cloth before dyepot.
I kept remembering India Flint’s wonderful statement at the workshop I went to. Perhaps I am quoting freely, but it went something like : ‘Everything will be beautiful when it’s finished. And if it isn’t beautiful, it isn’t finished.’ So all manner of things hit the bucket, and then the dye pot. Others are still waiting.
I think these fabrics will make a good quilt border, and hopefully I now have enough to get all the way around my quilt.
Even the over-dyed or previously tannin-mordanted fabrics came out more interesting than they went in. I think they will make good binding for the quilt. They should tone in nicely but offer some contrast. Recent measurements indicate that I have more than enough so…. no excuses, it must be time to assemble this thing!
Oh. My. Goodness. Pampering these no-longer-so-little pets multiple times a day as they munch through their leaves is a little on the dull side 7 weeks in.
Happily, there are less mouths to feed every day now. The picture above shows all remaining silkworms.
The big ones are seriously big! Some are still creating their cocoons. It is fascinating watching them start from the outside and gradually vanish into a home of their own making.
Some have finished the job and the cocoons are the same mix of yellow and white as last year for no discernible reason.
And… there are quite a few!
A while back I had used almost every bobbin I own, each with a different colour of thread on it.
Over time there were even more bobbins of singles than this pictures shows… finally there has been a season of plying, skeining and washing, and now I have this pile instead.
Logwood purples, purple-greys and purple-browns, a cochineal pink (and a cochineal-logwood exhaust), three indigo blues, two madder exhaust-oranges, and a coreopsis exhaust yellow. I didn’t take good enough notes of the fibres–some are on merino roving (the madder), some on polwarth, some on grey corriedale. Maybe there is a little of Malcolm the Corriedale in there too!
And there has been even more bee swarm action in the neighbourhood. These bees have taken up residence on a rainwater tank, with some support from a ladder! And… I am so over tending the silkworms 🙂
Since I’ve been a dog aunty, I’ve been walking the neighbourhood even more than usual. It has given me lots of opportunities to see the local bird boxes in use. That is a rainbow lorikeet sitting on top of the box.
And this, I believe, is the lorikeet wondering what I am up to down there. Or perhaps the lorikeet is watching the dog!
This morning, I went to check on a swarm at our friends’ house, and to look in on their chooks. There have been three swarms in their neighbourhood in addition to those at our house over the last couple of weeks, so our friend the beekeeper has been a regular visitor. Passing through the same park on the way home… I was admiring the activity of the bees who have moved into a big river red gum (E Camaldulensis) that leans to one side near the creek. I don’t know if you can see them in this picture–but this is the entry to their home, viewed from below. In the past I have seen musk lorikeets wing their way out of the same hollow.
This is one of the trees I tied a handmade banner to a while ago. You can see it here, dwarfed by the immensity of the tree.
When I got closer, I realised that someone had added their own commentary to the banner. In a good way!
A while back, I had some second hand chairs re-upholstered with a beautiful set of fabrics from cloth. I was in the upholsterer’s shop, faced with an enormity of choices, many of which didn’t look promising. Then I saw a small swatch from cloth, and suddenly, I was faced with only decent choices, and a manageable number of them. The upholsterer was happy for me to use any of their fabrics.
Shame about the mood lighting in this photo. Like so many sewing projects, it was finished after dark. I asked the upholsterer to keep any scraps of fabric, no matter how small, and had plenty left over to make cushions. I was stuck for a while, not wanting to buy polyfill to stuff them with but not able to think of a really good alternative. Then it came to me at my local op shop. I bought these three cushions for a song, laundered them, and gave them new covers. No more polyfill comes into existence, these items don’t end up in landfill for a whole lot longer, and I get cushions.
I gave them envelope backs. At first I had made the covers a little too large, so I corrected the sizing to make them suitably plump.
I gave them nice little mitered corners…
And now I have mostly small scraps left to turn into something lovely…
The silkworms are getting sooo big!
A few of them have gone to silk already.
Others are working on it.
I took dozens to the guild where the white elephant table accepted them as their first ever consignment of ‘livestock’ and they went home with a spinner who has grandchildren staying (and a weeping mulberry tree). Here they are in my basket ready to go…
Meanwhile. the search for mulberry leaves continues. We went to the Himeji gardens yesterday but the mulberry trees were not fully in leaf.
On the other hand, the gardens were beautiful even on an overcast day.
And there were ducklings!
In the end we made a trip to a nearby crash repairer where there is an immense mulberry tree hanging over a fence and dropping fruit… so I got some mulberries as well as plenty of leaves no one will miss.
The sashing has all been attached to my quilt. I am being a dog aunty, looking after a friend’s dog for a month. She wants to help with everything, but especially if it involves food. Sometimes you just have to check whether there might be food involved. Other times, rolling on the floor is essential and apparently the quilt doesn’t stand out a special part of the floor. I have a new appreciation of all those for sale ads on Ravelry that mention pet free homes. I don’t think I knew one animal could lose so much hair.
Luckily she is cheerful and good natured. She has been making friends all round the neighbourhood and leaves our hens alone. So, I’ve gone from this…
At this point I cut out the border and discovered that I did not, in fact, have enough cotton eco printed and ready to go. So there has been some unsuccessful bundling followed by a fresh round of mordanting processes. The pile looked so big… but some of it is made of fabrics that won’t be a good match… so there will just have to be more dyeing. Colour me not too sad about this!