Tag Archives: blue


I know, I’m easily excited, and I shouldn’t shout at people who are kind enough to read this blog, but WOAD!  I hang about on a couple of natural dyeing boards on Ravelry and I think it was there I saw a link to this resource about dyeing with woad–entirely graspable (apart from the absence of a reducing agent).  And in metric, always a plus. A couple of other Australians were chatting on Ravelry about when to use your woad–and that had me thinking now was the time to do it.  So.  Here are my two plants (before).

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There has had to be some explanation about this not being a salad green, which ought to be a clue about the  variety of salad greens we grow here.

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I had a lucky find behind the woad… the last of the cherry tomatoes.

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There was more woad than I thought.  And for anyone who has been wondering, I now know where the snails live and prefer to breed. Which confirms my opinion that the trouble I have had growing woad from seed might be due to its being utterly delectable to snails and slugs and every passing nibbler.

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This is the harvest!  For anyone else who has been wondering why some of the silverbeet hasn’t been thriving, another duh!  Moment in the vegie patch.  Those are white beetroot.  I don’t remember planting them, but more than happy to eat them in any case…

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Chopped woad leaves.  Three litres of chopped woad leaves.  A lot of care was taken to ensure no snail was wounded at this stage.

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Into the boiling water.

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Straining through four layers of cloth.

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Measuring the hot liquid (about 2 3/4litres)–and a pinky-browny colour.

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The first few locks of wool went in and ten minutes later–that isn’t blue?!

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After a second quantity of wool which also came out mauve, another batch came out still silver-white.  I decided to try a smidge more ammonia, and out came some pale blue.

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I can’t say this is earth shaking colour, but it is colour, and it is a colour I don’t usually get from the garden, and it isn’t as crushing as the total incompetence and series of accidents I’ve had going with austral indigo.  It’s enough of a success to make me think I should try again.  Let it be said that having a much larger quantity of leaves has to be an asset, because while woad reputedly has a low yield of indigo, so does austral indigo and its leaves are much smaller.  The austral indigo drops a lot of laves at this time of year and… I think I will just let it be this year!


Filed under Dye Plants, Natural dyeing

Some endings

Before the end of the year, we had a trip to Melbourne and I finally finished some socks I’ve been carrying around for quite a while. the triumphant moment when I grafted them occurred in a wonderful tea house our niece took us to.  She humours me as much as her aunt, so I recorded the moment for posterity (that would really mean, your viewing pleasure).

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I should admit that I don’t drink tea, so was very surprised to find myself relishing an iced peppermint and liquorice tea.  It was a lovely afternoon.  I have also finished the last of 2014’s (or was it 2013’s?) indigo dyed wool.  The last was polwarth.  I seem to recall I ran out of patience, which is always bad when you are handling wet wool, worse with fine wool, and possible only made still worse if also dealing with indigo.  Let me further confess, some felting resulted, which will not surprise other spinners.  This was the last of it, and I decided to just card it up and spin it lumps and all.  I have been drawing batts through a diz to make a roving.

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Rolled up roving:

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Spinning in progress, including lumps as promised! I feel sure there are more felted slippers in my future…

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So, here they are.  The last 3 skeins… all different shades, some first dyed with coreopsis or osage orange, and some involving quite a bit better spinning and plying than others!

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Filed under Fibre preparation, Knitting, Natural dyeing, Spinning

Indigofera Australis crop of 2014

Last year, I tried a cold vinegar process on some indigofera australis. The result was very pale blue, but just the same, blue, especially on silk and linen.  I thought this time I’d stick to silk.  I also found a direct dyeing method described online and decided to try it out on my indigofera australis.


My friend and I stripped the leaves from the stems and into the blender they went.


Pretty soon we had finely mushed leaves.


I tried both the  vinegar method and the direct dye method with no success to speak of, even after repeated dippings.


Remember that the wool on the right of each sample card has been mordanted with rhubarb leaf, so wasn’t white to begin with.


Well, I thought I had nothing to lose by leaving the leaves and the liquid to sit for a few days and trying again, so I reunited the pulverised leaves and the two dye baths.


I thought I’d try hydrosulphite, the last resort in case of indigo failure, in my case.  I warmed the liquid and strained out the leaves.


I have recently received a Ph meter as a gift, so I aimed for 10.5 and added washing soda in solution until I reached it.  The result was a striking yellow.


However… absolutely no blue whatsoever, not even an improvement on samples I thought I might overdye for improved colour.


Time of harvest?    User error in the process?  The Ph meter isn’t properly calibrated?  The thermometer is out of whack (it certainly didn’t agree with the one on the Ph meter, so I knew one of them must be wrong–and I now know it was the thermometer)?  I have no idea, honestly.  I’ve decided to leave my one Japanese indigo plant to keep for seed…


Filed under Dye Plants, Natural dyeing

Let’s try that again!


My indigo dyed sock yarn emerged from its vinegar and water soak a little improved.  Instead of being able to see blue on my fingers after just twisting the skeins and then being sble to see the track yarn takes around my fingers when I knit in blue detail after only a row or two… it took winding the skein into a ball to produce this effect…


I decided to try casting on.  After casting on 64 stitches…


(That would be the long tail cast on for knitters who need to know!)  Well, it’s an option to knit and get blue fingers: people who seem to know on Ravelry say the resulting garment will not lose dye onto the wearer.  Why not, I wonder–as a sock will clearly be in friction with the feet it is on and crocking is all about dye loss through friction rather than washing.  Still, a little slower rate of dye loss would be my preference!  I’ve checked with the redoubtable J N Liles The Art and Craft of Natural Dyeing (1990), and he would appear to be the source of my belief that if indigo crocks it will keep doing so.  He offers a method for addressing the problem that seems entirely logical but does involve some effort.  There is another simple solution suggested on Ravelry–a soymilk soak.  Since finding it mentioned on Ravelry, I’ve found John Marshall offering soymilk as a solution to crocking here.


On the premise of doing the simple things first, I’ll try that before proceeding to take Mr Liles’ advice, which would have to wait for a day with some relaxed hours.  As it happens, there were two part-used boxes of soymilk in the tearoom fridge at work… they have been there a long while and no one is claiming knowledge (one of them is mine but I’m not sure which one!)  They smell fine but I think they’re past the point of safe human consumption. What an opportunity!  Now we wait.


I made a little hat to match the big one.  Same basic hat, smaller, and top-down so I could use all the yarn.  I am sure it will fit a little person or perhaps a doll or a bear…


And… I had a score at the op shop (thrift store) on my way home from work.  I could not resist all that thread for A$2 and there were so many examples of lovely embroidery I had to bring one home…


Filed under Dyefastness, Knitting, Natural dyeing, Sewing

Alas, poor Malcolm the Corriedale

We had a glorious visit to our friends in the hills on the weekend. There were recently shorn alpacas.  In black…


In white…


And in cinnamon.  But like the sheep, the brown alpacas were too shy for photos.  There was a woodlot of blackwood trees, and some stumps with very impressive fungi growing on them:


There was a wealth of eucalypts and a knowledgeable community member who knew what many of them were. I brought home E Nicholii leaves (I have not had the chance to greet a fully grown specimen before, let alone a row of them), E Cinerea leaves and some massive juvenile E Globulus leaves.


There was fine company, cake and scones and home grown cherries.  Not only that, but koala sightings and visits with rescue joeys (baby kangaroos whose mothers have been killed on the road, being raised by hand with tender loving care).  Such awesomeness!  I took lots of handspun yarn and left quite a bit behind where creative minds were whirling with plans and fingers were itching to get knitting… but there was bad news too.  I got to meet with the people who hand raised the corriedale whose fleece I have been working with most recently, from a lamb.  And sadly, poor Malcolm had recently and unexpectedly died, just before the shearer was due to visit.  We paused on Malcolm’s grave.  So it was special to have taken yarns made from Malcolm’s fleece to share… and I still have some, plus fleece that I dyed with eucalypts last week (it is E Scoparia bark peeling season) …



And fleece that is prepared and ready to spin, from my recent coreopsis–osage orange–indigo dyeing season.  So… although I never did get to meet Malcolm, it’s conceivable I’ve spent more hours with my hands in his fleece than anyone…


And I now have 5 alpaca fleeces and one from Lentil the sheep to think about and share around, such is the generosity of our friends!


Filed under Dye Plants, Eucalypts, Fibre preparation, Natural dyeing, Spinning

Indigo vat with colour run remover

I am a bit intimidated by indigo.  Perhaps I have just made it a major performance each time I have attempted it so far–overreach is a superpower I have in spades.  But the temperature maintenance, chemistry, my lack of experience and (in the case of the hydrosulphite vat) my aversion to the chemicals involved, all make me wary.  Anyway, I overcame my reluctance and ran a vat last weekend.  I made an assessment of the fleece I might dye –in varying states of yellowness and natural whiteness (with a little tan), corriedale and polwarth.


The quiescent vat has been dormant since January, since I failed to make a successful fermentation vat using ambient summer temperatures. It has only been waiting 10 months for resurrection!  It contained madder and bran as well as indigo due to its first life as a potential fermentation vat, so the night before,  I sieved out all the larger particles remaining rather than have them distributed throughout my already less than pristine fleece.


I wetted out my fleece and some brown polwarth slippers in readiness.


The vat was a far more exciting colour after warming and the addition of colour run remover.


I had read Vivien Prideaux and Jenny Dean in preparation and realised some guesswork would be required. How much colour run remover?  How much could I hope to dye? Just the same, this is the second half of this vat I have managed to render useable by this method, another reason to think I should give up being intimidated and get on to practising fermentation methods.  Perhaps, just like sourdough bread, it isn’t as delicate as you might think at first–even if time needs to be on your side. It was very reassuring to see that telltale yellow-green colour appear under the surface on my silk embroidery thread.


Some of the yellow fibre going into the indigo:


And afterward, while still wet. Some of the greens will be quite emerald when they are dry, I think, but the paler yellows became blue rather than green.


The white fleece became many shades of blue in a very satisfying way that will let me create graduated yarns.  Here it is, going into the vat:


Here it is still wet but rather gloriously blue…


The slippers took up blue where they were white or pale purple from the tail end of a logwood exhaust bath, but took virtually no colour on the brown parts, which is to say, most parts.  It may be that the vat was exhausted–not completely, or the pale parts would not have taken up colour–but sufficiently that no colour change showed up on the brown.  It may also be that they were greasy enough to repel the dye somewhat and that so much wet fleece having entered it, the vat was diluted.  So I have kept the vat aside for another day or a new thought on the matter.

Meanwhile, there has been a breakout of the urge to spin silk and enter the cocoon…  But not for every single silkworm, and the ones that remain are SO HUNGRY!  So now I am off to look for a mulberry tree in the parklands I heard about on the weekend…



Filed under Fibre preparation, Natural dyeing

Indigo dyeing

A while back, I did a workshop on Nigerian Indigo dyeing with CraftSouth.  The tutor was the fabulous Oluwole Oginni.  I highly recommend this workshop, part of a series of Traditional Craft Workshops.  Indigo dyeing wasn’t offered in 2012 but hopefully there will be another opportunity.

We used wax resists and then dyed with indigo, using several dips.

I turned some of the fabric I worked on into these fully lined bags.

The denim is from recycled jeans, one pair to each bag!  This pair are a hemp blend.

And since we’re here… a couple of gratuitous pictures of a poppy that came up in my garden.  I can’t really claim to have planted it, though it bears a strong resemblance to some blood poppies I grew years back from a gift of seed.  But it was beautiful, and the bees love these flowers.  It is winter here now and I have just a few of these poppies beginning life in the garden, which have escaped the caterpillars.  So here’s hoping for more flowers later in the year!


Filed under Sewing

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

Fermentation Indigo Vat… not this time…

On the first day of the new year, I started up a fermentation indigo vat, following Rebecca Burgess’ recipe in Harvesting Color.  I’d had the ingredients waiting for some time but finally decided to gather my courage and give it a try.  I have previously used the hydrosulphite vat with success, but this was my first time trying a fermentation method.  I thought setting this vat up in the heat of an Australian summer was a good application of the principle that you should do those processes which work with the seasons and not against them.

We had a heat wave in January where the temperature went up to 45C during the day, but it was blessedly cooler at night. I stirred every day.  No sign of a coppery sheen.  In February, we had another hot spell where the temperature went up to 38C during the day and stayed well above 20C at night.  I wondered if that was a coppery sheen, or my imagination.  On the days I noticed it, I was too busy to try dyeing.

Well.  Here it is, May and the vat never became active in summer and won’t now that winter is on its way.  So the other week my friend wanted to indigo dye a birthday surprise item, and what with the need for it to be a surprise, the difficulty of laying in hydrosulphite and the volume of other things to do, by the time we got the vat happening, it was after dark.  What I am saying is, these pictures are not great!

We used about half of my fermentation dye bath and added hydrosulphite. With the help of a nice woollen blanket (sold to me as a dog blanket due to what must have been a vey sad felting episode in its previous home) for insulation, and of course big red protective gloves… we got started and had that indigo magic in spite of the months the vat has lain untended.  In goes the white fabric…


Exposure to the air on the clothesline


After a good rinse!


Next summer, I can see I’ll have to do better to get fermentation happening.  Better focus, more effort at maintaining temperature, and perhaps some feeding and maintenance.

For those who have been worried, our caterpillars have apparently changed into moths and moved on, and the madder is recovering.



Filed under Dye Plants, Natural dyeing