Category Archives: Natural dyeing

Guerilla Gardening Winter Edition 1: Planting out

Once winter seemed to have set in, I put my last plantings in the ground around the neighbourhood.  Everything that was sprouted from seed in spring and summer has now been planted out.

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There have been some losses as the Council or its contractors have been cutting down trees which have died sue to a soil borne fungus. Undergrowth often gets taken out in the complexity of removing entire tress. But they have also been planting more trees that are a decent size when they go in.  And then (I am guessing) one of my neighbours dug out my most successful weaving sedge, undoubtedly with different ideas about how to manage water flow through the neighbourhood after the flood. Even more recently, someone decided to take out two huge thriving wattles that I liked very much, presumably as a way of dealing with the gentleman who had been storing things behind them, sorting through them and then leaving behind what he didn’t want or need. I’d picked up the discarded items a few times, but evidently not enough for someone… or there was other trouble going on from someone’s point of view!

Some things are really thriving and this year I have direct seeded saltbush into some parts of the neighbourhood where ground cover is low, while in others, saltbush is being itself and spreading itself around freely. Thank goodness.

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Some of last year’s sheoaks have survived a more widespread than usual weed spraying programme and their understorey of saltbush and other tough native plants is growing too.

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In this very challenging spot I planted some random plants given to me by various people and this hibiscus has been flowering for months.  Understorey boobialla, some eucalypts and a feijoa tree are still growing too. Life just keeps growing up.

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Workshop announcement

Dear readers, if you are local–this workshop might interest you!  It would be lovely to see you if you’re able… and Susan is a lovely host.

Make a zippered box pouch

Saturday and Sunday 25 and 26 August, 10am-4pm each day

At the Aldinga Arts Eco-Village with Mary Heath from Local and Bespoke www.localandbespoke.com

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Come along and make a zippered pouch from plant dyed, woollen fabric. We will also dye more woollen fabric and thread to take home for your next project.

What to bring:

·         Your lunch

·         Treats to share

·         plant dyed fabrics to create a pouch OR use the plant dyed, upcycled woollen blanket provided (no extra cost)

·         your sewing machine in good order or hand sewing tools – your choice (sewing machine service is not on offer at this workshop)

·         thread to sew your bag

 

What will be supplied:

·         coffee, tea (all sorts), cocoa and milk

·         plant dyed, upcycled woollen blanket to use for your bag

·         upcycled woollen blanket to dye for future projects

·         plant dyes

·         zippers

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When:

Saturday and Sunday 25 and 26 August, 10am-4pm each day

Where:

12 Dianella Walk, Aldinga Arts EcoVillage, Aldinga SA 5173

Fee:

$120 per person (up to 10 participants; fee due by 3 August to secure your place)

Contact:

susan1147schullerATgmailDOTcom

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Filed under Natural dyeing, Sewing

Alchemist’s Apron

Some time back, I signed up for The Alchemist’s Apron. It’s an online class taught by India Flint in which you begin with a thrifted shirt and end up with an apron.  Along the way, there is plant dyeing and mordanting, pocket creativity and embellishment, practical tips on all things textile; not to mention wisdom and wit. The class has been accompanied by a facebook group of excitable dyers, each moving at their own pace and all creating aprons, dyes and questions aplenty.

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Now it has long since been clear to me that the shortage in my life is not dyestuffs, or fabric, or ideas, but time. So, I did not do everything exactly as the course proposed.  Pretty often if  I can switch steps and get the time consuming at-home step completed over the weekend so I can dawdle through the steps I can carry, pick up and put down, or do in front of the TV during the week–I will wickedly switch steps and face the consequences.  That is, when I realise I am not following the instructions!  And, although it was studying with India that gave me, or maybe gave me back, the pleasure of hand sewing, I machine sewed some steps in this process and allocated saved time to the parts I preferred to linger over.

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India offered strategies for embellishing manageable pieces of fabric (just as portable as knitting a sock, hooray!) as well as for embellishing the final completed object.  I’m not much of a one for embellishment but it may be that I am learning what I can enjoy and appreciate ever so slowly and with help from you, lovely readers.  I started out with the customary acknowledgement of the owners of the land where the garment was made, and then a line of poetry,  and then just kept going…

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India is, famously, a lover of pockets, and I am also a lover of pockets.  So I had great fun with those and learned new techniques for having things go the way I want them to–with pockets and embellishment and all.  So I have camouflaged pockets, visible pockets and secret pockets.  Open and closed pockets, large and small.

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I tried new threads.  And some new dyeing strategies. I understood how to do things I’d only seen, previously.  I understood why some things work instead of just knowing that they work.

And, I ended up with a rather lovely apron.  Those hanging shells happen to fall right where my hand hangs on that side and they get riffled though quite a bit in passing.  So there’s a happily ever after–which has spawned any number of further apron ideas, needless to say!

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Tuffsocksnaturally dyeing: sanderswood *cough* edition

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This post is part of the Tuff Socks Naturally project, an open, collaborative project exploring more sustainable alternatives to superwash and nylon in sock yarn. You can join in on the discussion on this blog or on the blog of the fabulous Rebecca at Needle and Spindle or on instagram using the hashtag #tuffsocksnaturally.

When last you saw this skein of yarn, dear readers, it was a sad excuse for pink after the failure of my betel nut dyeing experiment. At that point, I decided to take advantage of it having been mordanted in alum and dye it in something requiring an alum mordant. I still have a back catalogue of natural dyes left at my Guild. I picked out a small [sealed] pack of “sanderswood”.  The package showed its age–there was the address of a business in New Zealand/Aotearoa that must have closed long ago.  And we are talking a label created before the personal computer became an everyday item in the overdeveloped world.

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Jenny Dean gives alternate names as sanderswood, red sandalwood and Pyterocarpus Santalinus. The dye comes from the heartwood of the tree, so in ordinary circumstances I would not use it.  But this tree was cut down long ago and it is not in my power to bring it back.  I looked at the fine wood chips and gave them a good soaking before preparing the dye bath and throwing the fibres in.

Well.  Jenny Dean did not lead me to expect this!  Perhaps I should have weighed and measured?  Perhaps the betel nut under dye (pale as it was) or the alkalinity of the betel nut bath had something to do with it (yes, I washed and neutralised but even so)?

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On my test card, this colour came closest to alum applied hot (which is how I mordanted the sock yarn). So evidently the betel nut dye was not entirely the source of the outcome. In passing, I mention that this is one of the more interesting outcomes for the rhubarb leaf mordant I have seen. But the mystery, as it turns out, was still unfolding.  A week passed (you know, day job).  The dye bath had the slight beginnings of mould, so I heated it again, lid on, to kill the mould, removed it, and mordanted more handspun yarn.  This time a softer, greasier fleece that I’d spun quick and thick.

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In it went.  I expected the result to be uninteresting because brown.  Sorry to you lovers of brown, but this is surely what brown sheep are there for? I know.  I can’t help myself. Well, glad I bothered, because:

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Not only that, but eventually when that pot had steamed for over an hour with the yarn in it, I added another skein and it just kept giving.

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What can explain this?  Jenny Dean’s sample card shows oranges and yellow and brown for sanderswood.  I can say my pots are not clean enough to rule out modification by iron, but that does not normally create purple!  So perhaps this was really logwood?  But that doesn’t explain the deep brown.  And it is way too late to ask anyone at the Celbar gallery, Papanui Road, which sold this dyestuff, presumably by mail order.  I have found one reference to it online, in a publication dated 1978 that someone has lovingly scanned and uploaded for posterity.  Roll on, the plant dyeing mysteries! Once dried, this yarn was undeniably logwood purple–and what’s more, the tendency to give and give and give is something I have found also characterises logwood.  So on this occasion, I’m going to say this was NOT sanderswood, it was logwood. And, I see I had the same kind of result in 2013–so there may have been an entire batch mixed up somewhere in the past that came to our Guild!

 

 

 

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Tuffsocksnaturally dyeing: betel nut and eucalypt edition

This post is part of the Tuff Socks Naturally project, an open, collaborative project exploring more sustainable alternatives to superwash and nylon in sock yarn. You can join in on the discussion on this blog or on the blog of the fabulous Rebecca at Needle and Spindle or on instagram using the hashtag #tuffsocksnaturally.

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In the last weeks, I’ve turned out some skeins of three ply, high twist, 100% Suffolk sock yarn. And apart from the indigo dyed yarn, which I dyed first and spun afterward, I’ve been spinning the fleece in its natural state. Which could only lead to dyeing!

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Some time ago, one of my Guild buddies shared some betel nut with me, together with instructions on how to use it.  So I followed the instructions and got a lovely deep red colour in the vat… which just did not fix onto the fibre.  By sheer luck, I had the chance to take the advice of dyers who know better, while I still had that good looking vat–but even after trying their suggestion, the result was still pretty lacklustre (and they had suggested it might be too late–).  Here is is being hardly pink.

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Dyeing with the betel nut did constantly ear worm me with a song from South Pacific (the musical)–I was in the chorus in high school. As an adult I do wonder about having no memory of being given any historical context… and having checked Wikipedia I see I was an  incurious young person who did not ask what US military were doing in the Pacific in the musical and may or may not have noticed the progressive anti racist narrative which evidently caused scandal when the musical first made it to the stage! On the other hand, I had a namesake in this musical, played by a friend who was great in the role. We could not believe she was called Bloody Mary (how times change–in 1980 that seemed scandalous to me). As we had never met anyone who was ‘always chewing betel nut’ and for that matter, didn’t know what a betel nut was, or that its juice would run red… the reason she was called Bloody Mary was not at all obvious.  It just sounded like a slur, and of course, perhaps it was.  So I hoped for red yarn but it was not to be.

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The other skein went into a dye bath with dried, saved eucalyptus leaves, mostly E Cinerea. With time and heat, it was just the reverse of the betel nut bath.  The dye bath looked pale and the yarn gained colour.

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And now, I am ready to knit socks!

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Filed under Dye Plants, Natural dyeing

Indigo dyed sock spinning

Friends, I have not been keeping up with my blogging. I apologise. Life in my day job has been challenging this last year, but change is coming and perhaps we will see more of each other in the not-too-distant. This not keeping up means I have crafting projects that happened some time ago that you have never seen.  Here is one of those projects.

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This post is part of the Tuff Socks Naturally project, an open, collaborative project exploring more sustainable alternatives to superwash and nylon in sock yarn. You can join in on the discussion on this blog or on the blog of the fabulous Rebecca at Needle and Spindle or on instagram using the hashtag #tuffsocksnaturally.

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I am still working with Suffolk fleece, and I have been really keen to dye some with indigo.  I finally gathered up my nerve and tried refreshing my indigo vat over a long weekend.  And, success!!! In order to conserve dye and because the Suffolk is robust, full of vegetable matter, dirty even after washing, and hard to felt, I decided to flick card the locks prior to dyeing. That is what you can see in the top image. When I was able to achieve that deep blue in the picture above (the photo colour is not perfect–but this is NOT pastel blue), I felt no regrets.

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Then, to the drum carder.  No felting at all despite the challenging-to-wool alkaline environment of the vat followed by a lot of rinsing. Now the image below shows the colour most accurately. Colour me extremely happy about this yarn.

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My previous sock spinning efforts had persuaded me that I was not getting enough ply twist to create a robust sock yarn.  When I bought my spinning wheel, I decided to invest in a high speed head as well as two interchangeable whorls.  I was experiencing confidence that I would be spinning well into my future and want to use the wheel to its maximum capacity.  Since then, the place I bought that wheel, then the only spinning wheel seller in the city outside my Guild (which sells second hand) has closed. I’ve used everything that came with the wheel with only one exception, so that was a good call. Now to use the last accessory: the high speed head that would make it easier to get serious amounts of twist into my yarn even on evenings of weary spinning and distracted plying.

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Well, here is that yarn all wound up and ready to knit, waiting its turn in the knitting queue!  Just between me and you… as I write it has made it onto the needles and I’ve had the all-important conversation with a recipient who feels no reservation about this not-Merino-soft, local, plant dyed, single breed yarn.  Over a hot chocolate and chat tonight she took one look, squeezed the sock-in-progress and said YES!

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Filed under Fibre preparation, Natural dyeing, Spinning

Plant dyed fabrics

These are the results of my last day of dyeing, dried and ironed and ready for use.  Some have already gone to new happy homes and the one at top right has become a pocket!

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Filed under Leaf prints, Natural dyeing

Rinse and repeat

If these socks look familiar, its because a beloved friend brought me two skeins of lovely wool naturally dyed by Aurinkokehra. I knit a pair of socks from the first skein not so long ago and in the end, could not resist knitting another.  I’ve repeated the calf shaping, reinforcing stitches,  and the cotton and silk reinforcing thread.  The result is equally delightful.  There is something about yarn that changes colour as you knit that I really enjoy.  Such a well chosen gift for me!  These socks contain no nylon and no superwash–so I guess that they might be #tuffsocksnaturally but the yarn is certainly not my handspun.

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Filed under Knitting, Natural dyeing

Plant dyed silk stitching threads

A little while back, I decanted some silk stitching thread that had been steeping in dye for a year or two or three–using India Flint’s Stuff, Steep and Store preservation dyeing method.

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  1. hibiscus flowers
  2. daylilies
  3. woad seeds (mature and immature)
  4. unidentified wattle seed pods from the tram line
  5. dried coreopsis flowers, citrus peel water
  6. avocado peel (fresh), bicarbonate of soda
  7. mock orange leaves (Murraya paniculata)

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These jars have been sitting out in the rain and the sun, and I’m rather impressed by how well pencil on cardboard has lasted, never mention how the woad dyed wool, eucalyptus dyed yarn and handmade leaf string typing label to jar lasted.  I have already begun applying thread to some of those little jobs that just need doing…

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Of Aprons and Alchemy

Some years ago, I made an apron at an India Flint workshop.  It’s an ingenious design India has created which starts with a shirt with a collar and ends with a coverall with straps that cross over at the back.  This model also has some stitched-on panels creating a generous length at the back.

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I brought this garment home to dye it, and it would be fair to say that I never loved the outcome (friends who were consulted recently liked it more than I did).  And, it had some large holes for which I was responsible and which I had a lot of [bad] feelings about having created.  In short, this garment has been in the naughty corner (the place garments go to wait when I have been naughty) for some extended time.  But then, India put up an online course called The Alchemist’s Apron.   It is further supported by an online community of eager stitchers and dyers from all round the world on facebook.  I was lucky enough to be gifted an enrolment (Thank you India!)–and this turned out to be the trigger for getting the apron out of the naughty corner and into my hands again.

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First step, give it a wash and soften it up a bit (soy mordant no doubt was responsible for starching it a little).  Second step, mending. Mending is an evening occupation for me, thus the mood lighting… I have learned some things about mending since these holes appeared and decided to use several different strategies.

Some mends went over the hem (they were the most discouraging). These round-ish mends I especially like.

Once that was done, a second pass through the soy mordanting process, a wander around my neighbourhood by bicycle collecting leaves, and a bundle up with home made string (hems and seams left from cutting up and recycling clothing, in this case).

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I do love eucalyptus.

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The mends still stand out but I think that is OK, because #visiblemending!  I had chosen linen patching and cotton thread, which did rather guarantee they would stand out as the patches are mostly in the added border at the back of the apron which is cut from a recycled op shop raw silk pant suit a friend gave me.

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I like the new apron much more!

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And here is the back view… with the button placket still sporting buttons.  It’s a bit glorious now, I think. Do you have things waiting in the naughty corner?  How do they get there, and more importantly, what motivates you to get them out again?

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