Ah, Mansfield. I was privileged to go to India Flint’s Spring Sewing Circle in this lovely Victorian town not so long ago. I have been itching to write about it–but overcome by my day job. Mansfield was full of fabulous plants for dyeing, including eucalypts that are hard to find in my dry, hot hometown. This is a stunning E Crenulata that was just hanging over the caravan park fence.
There were catalpas and prunus trees that were so full of little plums that possums were harvesting all night, leaving leaves all over the ground for the enterprising dyer. There were cotinus trees, and berberis plants, maples and E Polyanthemos… and there was St John’s Wort in quantity, which India harvested to share with us.
I loved wandering the streets with enough time to admire the trees and expect to be able to use these leaves if I collected a few. I even found this one sunning itself at the edge of someone’s front fence!
With all this bounty, people’s bundles were packed full of amazing windfalls and all kinds of leafy wonder. I had come with some serviceable garment plans: I brought along a singlet with all its main seams machine stitched and hemmed it by hand, finishing all the edges. It used up all my scraps of silky merino. Then I made another one completely by hand. I really didn’t think I could be converted to making garments by hand, but India has turned me round. I still love my machine–but this is another pleasure altogether. One of them got wrapped around a piece of copper and given a long, mild cook.
Out came greens and purples and pinks and a little apricot. The St John’s wort was a spectacular dye plant I have never had a chance to try before. This dyeing process taught me that I’ve been reading and not understanding. More experiments will surely follow as I try to consolidate all I learned from this bundle.
I loved that St John’s wort! If weeding has to be done, this is a rather glorious outcome. Others had made wonderful silk bloomers and nighties that also got the St John’s wort treatment.
The catalpa greens and maple leaves were fun too… and prunus leaf pink and purple… well, so much bounty.
The other singlet had a hotter time in a dye bath that had already seen a lot of iron- and eucalypt-rich bundles, the things of which lovely string resist marks are made. I always love watching other people bundle up and unbundle. This is a deceptively simple process that different people use to achieve gloriously different effects. Finally I had E Polyanthemos I could be confident in, and E Crenulata, and so much more!
Here’s the E Crenulata on the back, with some string marks on show and fresh from the dye pot.
And here is the front, with those wonderful almost-round E Polyanthemos leaves. I am looking forward to wearing these come winter!
Eucalyptus magic. Sensational! I see over on India’s blog that she is advertising a new Australian class for 2016 and some tips for the new leaf printer. There is so much to learn from someone whose dye knowledge, love of plants and capacity for design are so extensive. And so much pleasure in learning from someone so generous, creative and imaginative. Do not get me started on the food… I may have started out with plain and serviceable garments, but I had a feeling I wouldn’t be stopping there, and… I was right. More instalments to come as time allows, my friends!