In another radical transformation of vintage woolen blanket, I (more or less) followed the instructions for the Flowers at My Fingertips hussif/sewing kit from Christine Vejar’s The Modern Natural Dyer. You can have a sense of what she did (and some pictures of her hussif) by following this link. Above are prints from maroon coreopsis flowers I had in the garden at the time I was dyeing. I bought the plant at the Seed Freedom Festival and have just loved it. It is not enjoying winter though.
These are prunus leaves from a neighbourhood tree. I cut binding from some linen pants that entered their second life some time ago.
Some parts of the binding went more smoothly than others, but in the end the edge was reasonably neat.
So now I have a sewing toolkit that rolls up. I really just wanted to make this pattern and try the dyeing strategy out, at a time of year when I had African marigolds, Mexican marigolds, Alyogyne Huegelii flowers, salvias and more to try out, and then realised that I also had something close enough to woolen flannel to try them on. I’ll figure out where it will go to live later!
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.