Tag Archives: E Nicholii

In guerilla gardening this week…

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It was another big day in local guerilla planting!¬† ūüėČ

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I planted a Eucalyptus Nicholii for the sheer nerve of it.¬† If it grows it will shade a bench council have installed.¬† It’s a big ‘if’.¬† But evidently I can dream.

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Fine leaved creeping boobialla propagated in autumn.

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Needless to say, plenty of ruby saltbush.

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These plants are being added to a place where I have already planted boobialla, olearia and several varieties of saltbush.  Some are coming along very nicely in this spot, and while a few are struggling, very few have been killed.

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On the homeward trip, very little rubbish and a bucket full of weeds.¬† The last round by the council poisoner resulted in several plants being killed elsewhere nearby (those I planted and some of Council’s plantings too).¬† I have drawn the conclusion that I should target weeds growing among plants I would like to see live, for early weeding.¬† And… I am still enjoying weeding and revegetating the neighbourhood, and the sooner I plant before the height of summer, the better the chances these plants will make it through high summer.¬† Time to plant seeds!

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Filed under Neighbourhood pleasures

Rhubarb leaves and tamarind

I haven’t found a lot of joy with rhubarb leaf mordant so far… but I do grow rhubarb and often wish I could use the leaves somehow before they reach the compost heap. One chilly day I wondered whether they might just be good in the dyepot–if I heated them surely they would release oxalic acid into the dyebath and even if that is all that happened, raising the acidity level of the bath can be a good thing.¬† Why not?

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Then, in with E Scoparia bark.¬† And eventually, two mesh bags full of polwarth fleece.¬† In fact, the last two!¬† I seem to have reached the end of the polwarth fleeces, which seems well nigh miraculous–though they have been just lovely to work with, these are BIG sheep.

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The rhubarb leaves did produce a deeper, burgundy shade–than the citrus acidifier in the other pot.¬† Is this a quantity effect, sheer luck…?¬† I am not honestly sure, but I will certainly try it again.¬† The water has to be heated for the dyebath anyway and letting it steep a little before removing rhubarb and adding eucalypt is not too difficult.

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In another acid experiment, I have been cleaning out the kitchen cupboards (well, some things over a decade old are leaving the cupboards)–and found this:

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Wasn’t I in Brisbane at least 12 years ago the last time I cooked with tamarind??¬† I put it into a big jar and topped up with water.

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Then, into a dyebath with E Nicholii and some of ‘Viola’s’ fleece–she’s a local pet sheep who seems to have some English Leicester parentage.¬† Another gift fleece.

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Tamarind on the left, citrus acidifier on the right.¬† Curious!¬† I have another bath with the exhaust dye baths and a second round of leaves steeping (also known as waiting until I have time and inclination…) now.

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Filed under Natural dyeing

Bundles of the week

One of the things I noticed at Tin Can Bay was that some people identify that something is less lovely or less suitable than it could be, and go about transforming it into something lovely or suitable.¬† I have been known to do this… but it made me conscious that often I just live with the ugly version or wish that thing was different every time I wear or use it.¬† I also realised I don’t have a lot of confidence I can improve on things.¬† What if my intervention makes them worse?

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So it occurred to me that I could change the little calico drawstring bags I have acquired full of soap nuts and the odd other item.¬† They are useful but ugly right now.¬† Why not dye them?¬† This idea happened along in a week when there was cow milk in the house (unusual these days), so I decided to try using it as a mordant.¬† If it doesn’t work–it won’t be too late to use soy another day, I decided.¬† Duly treated, I applied E Nicholii leaves.¬† The leaves my friend gave me are full of buds, splendiferous materials for leaf printing goodness.

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There were three bundles in all in this dye pot, and I chose this one to unwrap.  Nothing special had occurred.

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I’m not sure whether this was due to the mordant (poor application, for instance!) or whether I just paid too little attention and the bundle didn’t have a long enough, hot enough time in contact with the dye.¬† I had left it dyeing and gone out to play guitar and sing and generally be a flibbertygibbet–occasionally something suffers through this kind of neglect (but I had a good time)!¬† I was undeterred, because if at first you don’t succeed, try again later with tried and true processes you understand on a day when you are paying enough attention.

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I rewrapped, and decided to reheat the other two bundles as well rather than disturb them, when their companion had not done well with careless treatment.

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The other bundles were another calico bag and an infinity scarf destined for a friend who loved the one I made at India Flint’s Melbourne workshop.¬† I am seeing my friend soon and I have another gift for her too.

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This time, E Cinerea and E Nicholii…

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The other milk soaked calico bag–had rather nice beads on its drawstrings. Here are the bundles prior to heating.

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Here they are after the first heating–the silky merino looks good–but I had hoped for deeper colour.¬† The filthy artisanal plastic bucket in vibrant green is an extra special touch, I feel.

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After some further cooking, the calico bags all looked darker but still pretty awful and the whole bucketful was strangely blurred (joke, Joyce!).¬† Back to soy mordanting for now. ¬† However, that big bundle in the middle is the infinity scarf–looking good.

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The calico bags still require improvement.  They look better here than in real life!

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I really like the way the scarf turned out.  The colours are rich.  There are some nice ochre and deep grey sections for contrast.

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I really like some of the details–as I had hoped, the E Nicholii buds have left their mark as part of an overall pattern.

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Now to see if my friend likes it–but I have some quiet confidence that she will…



Filed under Leaf prints, Natural dyeing

Winter dyeing

I had some rather pallid silk embroidery thread. That bag it is sitting on came from an op shop and has been through eucalyptus dye pots so many times it is a very deep shade now!

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I had some white and tan polwarth fleece.

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Eucalyptus cinerea leaves… I have sacks of them and decided it was time to get them moving!

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With wool going in a bit later…

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Then a gift of E Nicholii leavea arrived from a fried whose keen eye and quick wits diverted council prunings from going directly to mulch.  Thanks!

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Here they are after some serious cooking.

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My tour of the dye stash also uncovered these, sitting in a bag I used to use for gleaning the neighbourhood.¬† Perhaps I could use it again if it wasn’t storing these leaves…

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I thought I remembered them being unexciting.¬† They are clearly ironbark leaves, but presumably I confused my ironbarks.¬† I wasn’t sure and decided to try them out.

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There has also been E Scoparia bark dyeing.

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And here we have, fresh from the dye bath (a day later): E Nicholii at the top left; the unexciting ironbark, and E Scoparia bark at the bottom.

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Later still, some of that polwarth fleece sitting on the piano like a fluffy flame…

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First pass through the carder…

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Second pass… ready to spin!

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And now I have some thread with a bit more colour in it, too!

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Filed under Eucalypts, Fibre preparation, Natural dyeing

Fibre preparation

There has been a breakout of fibre preparation.¬† I got to the end of all my carded fibre.¬† So I started going through what I had washed and otherwise ready to spin.¬† Grey corriedale dyed with Eucalyptus Nicholii: before…

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Polwarth dyed with indigo.¬† Apparently overlooked last time I was carding…

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Here it is ready to spin.  Just one random batt.

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Then there was some angora (rabbit)–just a handful.¬† A Guild member was gifted this at the Royal Show last year by a rabbit breeder and since she couldn’t spin, I offered to dye it for spin it for her.¬† I dyed it prior to the workshop I ran along with a huge batch of fibres for the workshop participants.

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It was reeeeally short, and there was not very much.  So I carded it into some natural white polwarth.  Tweedy angora flecks?

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I managed to spin it into a singles before I went to Guild, then plied it up for her on the night.¬† Here’s a rough and ready photo.¬† She was delighted.¬† She is a tapestry weaver, so I feel sure this will find its way into a tapestry in due course!

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Filed under Fibre preparation, Natural dyeing

Eucalyptus Nicholii

On a public holiday some time back, I had a picnic in the Wittunga botanical gardens with a friend.¬† It was an overcast day, and my phone was in for repair, so I took my Mum’s old camera.¬† In case it isn’t obvious, I am apologising for the quality of the photos. ¬† Last time I went there thinking about dye plants was a long time ago.¬† This time, we parked and almost as soon as I stepped out, I could see that there were trees that could be E Nicholii all around the carpark.¬† They were indeed E Nicholii and they were many and very large!


I couldn’t really get a picture that gave a sense of scale.

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These were huge trees with many little leaves.


Luckily for me, they had dropped twigs and leaves on the ground below…


And later… into the dye pot they went!


Lovely–and justly famous as a dye plant, I think.



Filed under Dye Plants, Eucalypts, Leaf prints

Dyes of antiquity: Eucalyptus leaves

My friends, there is going to be a little series on dyes of antiquity here on this blog. It arises from plant dyestuffs that have been donated anonymously to my Guild, which have come to me as the person currently teaching natural dyeing at the Guild.¬† Needless to say, there are women at the Guild who know more about natural dyeing than I do and have decades of experience.¬† Some are dyes used in antiquity (cochineal, indigo, kermes).¬† Others are in packaging that predates metric weights¬† in Australia, which came in in 1977.¬† Certainly, safe disposal of mordants that are now regarded as toxic has had to be arranged.¬† So I am using the word ‘antiquity’ both literally and figuratively–but I have a trove of dyestuffs which I would usually not have come across, and some of which I would not be prepared to buy if they were available.¬† Some require identification.¬† Some require research, so I can figure out how to dye with them.¬† I decided to start with what I know.

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There were bags of varying sizes containing eucalypt leaves.¬† One was clearly E Sideroxylon leaves.¬† Then there was the orange bag of unidentified leaves–possibly E Nicholii (which has clearly been in widespread use at the Guild in the past).


Then there was a lovingly stored and labelled small pack of E Crenulata leaves.


From time to time, people online ask whether you can store Eucalyptus leaves for too long.¬† I don’t know.¬† I tend to use what I have on a rotating basis, partly because I have seen what insects can do to stored vegetable matter!¬† These leaves appeared to have been stored for a long time, but under good conditions.¬† No signs of insect damage.¬† They had clearly been dried prior to being bagged for storage.¬† They retained some green colour. They were sitting on top of a stack of newspapers dated 1991.¬† Was that a clue?¬† I don’t know!¬† A fellow Guild member who helped me clean out the cupboards thought they were probably older!

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The E Sideroxylon leaves gave far more intense colour, partly because there were more of them.¬† And possibly because the small fine leaves were not from an exciting dye species and the second dyepot was mostly relying on the small quantity of E Crenulata.¬† Just the same, more of my white alpaca fleece is getting dyed, spun and ready to be knit all the time…

Meanwhile, I am preparing for a dyeing workshop at the Guild and deciding which of the dyes that have come to me are suitable for use there… I’m thinking madder, walnut, cochineal and logwood!!


Filed under Eucalypts, Natural dyeing

Eucalyptus Nicholii?

Remember this bundle of leaves and my excitement about finally meeting E Nicholii, fully grown? The straight, narrow leaves below were supposed to be E Nicholii.


Well.  E Nicholii is a well- and long-recognised dye eucalypt, described by Jean Carman and the Victorian Handspinners and Weavers Guild in their classic books, and prized by dyers I have spoken to who were using it in the 1970s and 1980s to obtain reds and oranges.  So I was rather surprised to find this result from the best of several attempts:


I did get a roughly orange smudge on some of my fabrics from the ‘E Nicholii’. In the same pot, cooked for the same length of time and on fabric mordanted in the same batch, E Cinerea produced vibrant colour:


In the past, using trees I was entirely confident were E Nicholii (albeit small specimens) I have got something more like this:


These are blocks from a quilt I have been working on…


My own E Nicholii is a tiny specimen, surrounded by a personalised fence to prevent certain marauders with a tendency to dig up anything promising with no thought for the future.


The marauders came past to check what was happening as I took a photo of the tree.


How to explain this eco-printing result?¬† I didn’t identify these trees myself but relied on someone else who was clearly knowledgeable, which is not to say any of us are above error.¬† If I had identified them myself, I would say without hesitation that the dye pot is more reliable than my identification skills.¬† But there are so many variables: these trees were mature while I have tried only young trees–all I have been able to find and identify with confidence.¬† They were in relative shade and growing in a relatively cool spot…¬†¬†¬† I just don’t know!


Filed under Dye Plants, Eucalypts, Leaf prints

A pair of backyard Eucalypts…

Recently I discovered that a friend who has one of the biggest E Cinerea trees I have ever seen in her back yard would like some of it removed.¬† I offered to cut and take away the dead and insect affected parts, to her surprise, and have now made three visits to do just that. I’ve begun some dye pots with alpaca another friend has asked me to dye.


On the second visit to trim the E Cinerea, my friend’s partner spoke about the loss of a bough on their other eucalypt.¬† I looked closely at this second very large tree with rough, fibrous bark on the trunk and very narrow leaves and ‘Eucalyptus Nicholii’ went through my head.¬† Could I at last have found a fully grown specimen?¬† It branched so high and the ground had been so thoroughly cleared in the effort to remove all the fallen material that I couldn’t find fruit.¬† I did manage enough leaves for a dye pot however… and it is very promising! I heated the leaves for an hour, dropped the sample card in and went for a bike ride leaving the heat off.¬† When I got back:


As I write I have added some alpaca fleece.¬† I will have to wait to make a more definitive identification… I have sometimes found that all the hours I’ve spent with books on Eucalypts have created the context for me to have a correct intuition about a particular tree.¬† Equally often, though–I have completely the wrong end of the stick!¬† But the alpaca is looking good as it sits draining…



Filed under Dye Plants, Eucalypts, Natural dyeing

Eucalyptus Nicholii

I finally found E Nicholii, growing in Botanic Park. My beady eyes have been searching the suburbs of my city for this tree as I ride past, to no avail until now.


This is such a finely-leaved tree!¬† Perhaps I have failed to identify it if I have seen one fully grown, mistaking it for another kind of tree altogether.¬† I had one growing in a pot but it suffered too much through summer. It is also the only tree I have ever seen as the subject of a public notice at Guild, where I once saw a hand lettered note asking if anyone could supply E Nicholii leaves for a dyer. My friend’s godmother–another dyer–who lives in NSW, recommended E Nicholii as her favourite dye plant.¬† These are some of the reasons I was trying to grow it in a pot.¬† I have given that up and we have a tiny specimen growing in the corner of the back yard.¬† And now–the reason why people are so keen!¬† I think this print is sensational.


See that big black splodge?¬† I have wondered why I get one of these once in a while (and needless to say I have had a few theories).¬† Just recently the penny¬†dropped.¬† Or should I say, the washer dropped–because that is what actually happened.¬† One of my dye pots has a glass lid with a knob screwed into the centre of it. All these eucalypt dye baths have eaten away at the metal of the screw and washers.¬† One washer recently fell off altogether, as the hole in it simply had been made too large for it to stay in position.¬† So… there has been an inadvertent contribution of iron to some of my dye baths, and some unintended black smudges where iron water drips down onto my bundles from above–since this lid is convex, I have preferred it when I have large bundles in the pot.¬† Aha!¬† Another mystery solved.¬† This may explain some of my surprise dye bath outcomes, too…


Filed under Dye Plants, Eucalypts, Leaf prints