Tag Archives: E Sideroxylon

Dyeing embroidery thread

Some years ago, I bought India Flint’s little book Stuff, Steep and Store. I stuffed a lot of jars with all manner of small quantities of dyestuffs, and set them to steep.  Some have been out of doors with their cardboard labels tied on with woad dyed wool, or with string made of leaves.


Some are still sitting on my bookshelves patiently waiting. Recently I opened several of these jars and washed off the contents.


And here are the results.


It’s a bit sad that this thread dyed with weld was the entirety of my weld crop! I came out one day and found that it had fainted.  Some critter or another had severed it below ground.


On the other hand, the colour from the black hollyhock flowers is stupendous.  I will certainly save them again this summer for a future jar of dye. This method is fantastic for small quantities of plant material. But I must admit I was interested so long after the fact to see how risk averse I’d been in setting up all these jars of dye and yet dyeing so little fibre.  Maybe next time I could be just a little bolder…



Filed under Natural dyeing

More summer preserving

The harvest is continuing round our place.  One friend dropped a bag of figs and grapes on the front doorstep.  I took a bag of plums over to hers on a run!

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Then I went to visit another friend who is house-bound after surgery, taking a care pack of salads and mains.  She asked me to deal with her nectarine tree.  It was so heavily laden!  I collected a huge bucket of fallen spoiled fruit (things such as this are known at our house as ‘chicken happiness’).  Then I picked fruit for my friend and another visitor, and then two more buckets.  Then I cleared fruit out of her neighbour’s gutter!  The tree was still covered in unripe fruit.

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I shared nectarines with two other households and then put our share in jars, since we have a young nectarine tree which is bearing enough to keep us in fresh fruit.  Oh, and there were more plums. Just one jar this time.

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There was also a handover of a HUGE bag of frozen hibiscus flowers from a dedicated friend, bless her heart!  They had to wait a couple of days, and then I decided it was time to use the only dependable looking big jar I had for them.  I wasn’t sure they would all fit, but in the end, with defrosting and squeezing … they did.

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In went fermented citrus peel water and aluminium foil water (thank you to India Flint for yet another ingenious use of kitchen discards that are neither worm happiness nor chicken happiness)… fabric, threads, and so on… (last week’s batch are here for size comparison).

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I filled another, smaller jar with kino from an E Sideroxylon I had been saving, and another (slightly less) large jar, albeit with a rusty lid which might not seal, with my mother’s dried coreopsis flowers. That was all the dye pot would take for processing.

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Three more for the pantry shelf.  It is so interesting to see such a deep green already developing in the hibiscus flower jar…







Filed under Dye Plants, Natural dyeing, Neighbourhood pleasures

In preparation for a natural dyeing workshop

As I write, I’m preparing to run a workshop at my Guild.  I’m counting down and there are only a few days left.  Preparation has been going on for weeks now! I’ve skeined beautiful organic wool and mordanted some.

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I’ve washed fleece in two colours and two breeds, and mordanted some.  I’ve decided being able to mordant cold in alum is a real benefit to preparing unspun fibres.  Less opportunity for felting or simply mooshing the fibres.  Three cheers to Jenny Dean, who introduced me to the idea of cold mordanting with alum.

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I treated some merino roving to a cold alum bath too. Later I decided that past unlovely experiments with paj silk could go in the mordant bath with a view to being overdyed.  And added silk embroidery thread.

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I have been packing things into bags and writing lists. I’ve begged milk bottles from coffee carts and turned them into sample cards. Finally, on the weekend, I wandered the neighbourhood on my bike gleaning leaves, and finding some damaged pomegranates that might be used for dyeing–the rats that were scampering along the fence nearby had clearly been having a banquet!  It was overcast, but can you see these two E Cinereas forming an arch at the end of this street?  Cute as a button!

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Ironbarks were oozing kino, which is their main strategy for avoiding pest attack.  This one seemed to have gone a bit too far…

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Some ironbarks were in flower. Gloriously.

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In some streets there was a carpet of flowers on the ground where lorikeets and rosellas had been partying.

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Some of the neighbourhood E Cinereas have recovered from the most recent attack of the chainsaws a bit.

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I stopped off at my favourite E Scoparia on my way home.  It now has some leaves I can reach for the first time since a bough was lopped a couple of years ago.

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So, I came home fully laden.  I even found an E Cinerea branch that had been cut some time ago but must have fallen to the ground more recently. Needless to say, it came home with me.

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Hopefully, my preparations are nearing completion.  I had a dream the other night where my workshop went terribly wrong… for one thing, there were two workshops and I had not prepared for the first one at all… and the Guild hall, which is a bit of a rabbit warren, had several rooms that I had not previously seen!  Perhaps it is the idea of using cochineal for the first time acting on my overdeveloped sense of responsibility…


Filed under Dye Plants, Eucalypts, Fibre preparation, Natural dyeing, Neighbourhood pleasures

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

These are a few of my favourite trees

The ‘Beloved tree’ banners are out in the neighbourhood.  A bunch of us put up the first couple, and I pedalled around attaching the rest on Mother’s Day.  This one is on a massive ironbark.


It stands beside the tram bridge in Goodwood.


This one is dwarfed by a huge E Camaldulensis in a park beside Brownhill Creek.


This trunk has survived a lot of depredations, whether human, animal or insect.


I’ve tried to capture a sense of its canopy…



But it is hard to show all there is to see when you stand beneath its curved limbs and beside that massive trunk.  Needless to say it isn’t all about what you can see, in any case.


This is the place where lorikeets sometimes nest.  I’ve seen them wiggling their way in through the hole they have nibbled out of the pace where a branch used to be, as well as flying out at speed like small, feathered, green comets.


This next tree is an E Sideroxylon. It stands outside the Le Cornu warehouse on Leader St.



I used to be able to reach its lowest leaves, but the chainsaws took off the lower limbs some time back.  It is still magnificent.


The light wasn’t great for it, but since there is at least one appreciator of industrial buildings reading, here is a shot of the background. I oriented my banner toward pedestrians.


Next, one of the largest E Cinereas in the neighbourhood, standing outside what seems to be a disused office in Leader St.  Perhaps people work there but are not interested in the garden!


It has suffered the chainsaw too, losing a truly huge bough.

Still glorious.


Still vast.


Finally, my old friend on the corner of Laught and East Sts.  I thought this was an E Scoparia at first, but while the leaves give amazing colour, the bark produces a different result than other E Scoparias I’ve dyed with.  Name, uncertain. Beauty, obvious.


This time I was spared conversation with the tree hater who lives opposite this tree and can only see it as a source of litter.  I was on the bike, so picked up a bagful of fallen dried leaves.  When I have more carrying capacity I take fallen twigs and whatever bark or wood is lying beneath it in hopes of mollifying the tree hater. 

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Fabulous.  I must say that visiting all these beloved trees and wrapping my arms around each one… I did feel like a tree hugger.  And proud!



Filed under Craftivism, Dye Plants, Eucalypts, Neighbourhood pleasures

Leafy quilt back finished!

On the weekend, I finally stitched together the back for a quilt that has been in some kind of progress through most of the last year.
The blocks for the front are finished and I hope I have eco printed enough fabric for a border. A friend who was over on the weekend advised me about the sashing. So… now I need to get started on piecing the front together. Don’t hold your breath! Meanwhile, the saltbush seed I collected while we were on holidays is coming up and so are my vegetable seedlings, and I’m contemplating what to do with the home grown indigo and when I should do it!


Filed under Leaf prints, Natural dyeing, Sewing

Eucalyptus dyes over grey corriedale: The spinning finale

I have a bit of a tendency to go a long way toward the completion of a big project and then pause near the end.  Sometimes for a little while, sometimes for a long while.  So here, finally, is the very last of the grey corriedale I dyed months ago and planned to spin during the Tour de Fleece. I loved the two ply yarn I created during the Tour a good bit less than my initial chain plied skein, even though it is what I need if I ever knit that cardigan I dream of.

I found the label for this fleece on the weekend and I started out with 3.5 kg of fleece.  I made a true three ply yarn (three singles plied together) from most of the last part…


And chain plied the rest (one single plied on itself in a chain).  I think the long pause on this was caused by the way my heart sank when I stopped chain plying it in the first place.  I love the distinct colours in the last little leftover skein!   IMAG2562

I also spun up a little batt of alpaca dyed in eucalyptus.



Three ply wins again!


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Filed under Eucalypts, Fibre preparation, Natural dyeing, Spinning

Eucalyptus colours over grey wool

I have a lot of Polwarth fleece, both brown and variegated white/tan. All of it gifted from pet sheep that live nearby.  It is a privilege and it is also a difficulty.  Washing fleece so fine and so greasy has been intimidating as well as slow.  I have spun some in the grease, and washed some twice, and tried several different washing approaches.  I have dyed and spun and spun and dyed.  Two and three ply, corespun. you name it! I spun and knit an entire cardigan from naturally brown Polwarth, too.

And then one day someone at Guild said “I hate fine fleeces!” in my hearing, and it occurred to me that I do not have to spin it for the rest of my life.  I lashed out and bought a considerable quantity (3.5 kg) of grey Corriedale (nothing to approach the stash of Polwarth, mind you) and it has been heavenly.  I love grey fleece, and this is the loveliest corriedale I’ve ever had the pleasure to spin.

I have been dyeing it with eucalypt leaves and bark.  I have oranges of many shades from rust and brick to flame to gentle sunset.


I have burgundy and plum.


And I also have some tans and walnuts.  It appears I collected some bark that wasn’t exactly what I thought I had collected.  But to be honest, I think these are lovely additions in this context.  I’ve begun spinning yarns of many hues, chain plying to maintain the colour contrasts.  Lovely.  It’s hard to believe I can find these colours through combining bark and hot water and time with wool.


Now… I have figured out that what I would really like to do with at least some of this wool is knit a particular cardigan.  And my beautful 3 ply yarn is too thick to make gauge for it!  Possibly also for the design I have in mind those colour changes will not be ideal.  So, I am about to embark on two ply yarns.  This is my Tour de Fleece project.


Filed under Eucalypts, Fibre preparation, Natural dyeing, Spinning

Ironbark identification saga continues

I’ve been working my Eucalypt identification skills overtime and discovered that there are at least 3 dark-barked (by which I mean their trunk bark is brown to grey to black) types of ironbark growing as street trees in my area.  The main two seem to be E Tricarpa and E Sideroxylon, but it appears I also have E Corynodes.  One of the reasons I’m feeling some confidence is because of the results I have had from the dye pot:

In order of appearance:

E Citriodora–not an ironbark, just for comparison!–(Goodwood); E Tricarpa (Goodwood); E Tricarpa (Black Forest)

E Corynodes (Black Forest); E Sideroxylon (Goodwood); E Sideroxylon (a different tree, in Goodwood)

I would have to say that the dye results are more consistent than my perception of the appearance of the trees! One happy outcome of paying more attention is that I have observed that at this time of year E Tricarpa (and some E Sideroxylons) have tiny buds in formation among the fresh young leaves, and this enables a confident identification as between them. E Tricarpa has buds grouped in threes and E Sideroxylon has buds grouped in sevens.  Sometimes fruits are so high in the tree I can’t tell, and sometimes the sample I am able to reach has umbels where some fruits have broken off but I can’t be confident how many.  So this discovery is a help to the person trying confidently to tell them apart–me, for instance.

E Tricarpa (see those tiny buds-in-formation?):

E Sideroxylon:

I need to go a little further afield to consider other variations on the theme, but for now I think I will consider wider-leafed ironbarks to be types I don’t know well, rather than assuming they are E Sideroxylon with a better supply of water and nutrients.  You know what they say about assumptions!


Filed under Dye Plants, Eucalypts, Natural dyeing

Eucalyptus leaf prints of the week

Alongside all these  yarn samples, I made leaf prints.  I sprayed my fabrics in vinegar (as India Flint recommends in her beautiful book Eco-Colour: follow the link on her blog and support her that way if buying online: it is in the left hand sidebar).  Next, I sandwiched the leaves between two layers of fabric, wrapped them tightly around cast iron pipe and cooked them in rainwater for about three hours.

Here is my suspected E Scoparia before cooking: I got a small sample and only what I could reach, and when I got it home, there was a lot of evidence of insect activity!

E Scoparia? Sample


I also set up some E Sideroxylon leaf prints, which as I have now confided in you, were not E Sideroxylon at all!   Some on recycled hemp shorts (I’ve decided that I am allowed to use the fabric of garments I no longer like/want for other purposes), and some on some hemp/silk fabric I ordered online. Here is one piece of what used to be a pair of shorts, before:

I am planning to make a leaf-printed shirt, but I am a bit scared.  I mordanted this fabric months ago.  I have a great pattern.  I did not expect this fabric to have one silk face and one hemp face, and I can’t decide which is the’ right’ side.  So I set up one sample on the silk face and one on the hemp face.  Here are the results.

Silk side:

Hemp side:

So… I think the silk side might be the ‘right’ side.  Feel free to offer alternative opinions!  And I might use a different tree for the shirt prints when I gather my courage.

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Filed under Eucalypts, Leaf prints