Tag Archives: grey

Adventures in woad

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Woad has been one of the success stories in our summer garden.  Until two years ago I had no success at all growing a seedling. This summer, it has really grown and thrived.  So I have decided I can try a few things out.  I started with India Flint’s ice flower method.  She describes using it with with Japanese Indigo on silk here. It seemed logical to me that if it worked with Japanese Indigo, it should work with woad.  But logic requires consideration of all the facts, and I know for sure I don’t understand all the chemistry and plant magic involved.  So who knew what might happen? The last time I tried this, with some Japanese Indigo leaves, nothing obvious happened and I decided I just didn’t have enough leaf matter (and the leaves were tired and sad in any case).

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This time I was rich in leaves, though woad is a low-indigo plant. I followed the instructions.  After a night in the freezer, here are my woad leaves in filtered rainwater, with a little pre-loved raw silk and some silk embroidery thread.

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A while later, there were exciting signs of success.  A couple of hours later, the colour was deeper still and the embroidery thread was looking good too. Definitely deep turquoise–tending to green rather than blue, but that would be a happy outcome. I added more thread! That looked good too, so I added some more fabric and went to bed.  The next morning the woad leaves were very green, but the silk was not!

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I haven’t had a lot of luck catching the colours exactly, but…. grey is close enough!  The thread is a sheeny steely grey that I have obtained from Austral Indigo in the past by a similar method.  I really enjoyed stitching with it and now I have a new supply.  The smaller fabric that went in first is a darker colour and slightly green-grey.  the larger piece is a rosy-grey, perhaps.

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I forgot to alkanise as India suggests, which would have been a good idea: that might be the issue.  The silk is much worn and washed.  Contaminants?  The woad has had a hard summer? I have chosen a plant in its second year without much indigotin: that is entirely possible.  This method doesn’t suit woad?  I should have pulled the fabric and thread out sooner, when I liked the colour?  Further oversights on my part?  I just don’t know!



Filed under Natural dyeing

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


I loved running workshops over summer, but it has also been a treat to return to my spinning wheel.  This skein began as grey corriedale fleece.  I dyed it in the grease with Earth Palette dyes, carded, and pulled a roving directly from the drum carder through a diz.  I have seen this technique demonstrated on YouTube, but I was only prepared to try it after someone from my Guild (who is a fabulous spinner) showed a group of us how she does it.

I like the colour, and enjoyed the process of producing roving.  Being able to dye in the grease is one of the things that has me returning to Earth Palette dyes. It improves my pleasure in scouring, and makes me content with scouring small quantities.   Does my impatience show?


One of the workshops I ran over summer was on ‘fancy yarns’–artyarns to the inhabitants of the internet–and it has been good to come back to spinning the kind of yarns I prefer to knit.  I love the challenge of artyarn spinning, and the results, but I am a plain spinner in my heart, apparently.  This is relaxing spinning for me and I’m enjoying relaxing a little.  The yellow/green/blue corriedale that I dyed at the same time has already become a beanie for a dear friend’s birthday, even though there will be no call for him to wear it for some months yet!

Dyeing over a grey base has pleased me so much that I want to return to trying it with eucalypts.  I guess I’d better get over myself about scouring…


Filed under Fibre preparation, Knitting, Spinning

Hibiscus Flowers


Until recently, there was a house near us that we were told would be demolished within the next week (it’s gone now).  The inhabitants moved out in a hurry, leaving the tide of unfinished business you might expect in the circumstances: the gate and doors open and unwanted stuff everywhere.  I picked all the grapefruit they’d left on the tree and gave it to a friend who loves grapefruit, saved the water lily and goldfish for another friend with a pond, with the help of friends, I put out the bins and piled their recyclables into our recycling bin and their recycling bin and a crate or two, ready for collection the next day.  I decided to harvest the flowers from their red hibiscus, which was in full bloom.   I followed the instructions Jenny Dean gives in her very fine book Wild Colour, up to a point…


I decided to use more rather than less dyestuff, 125g flowers to 50g washed unmordanted polwarth locks to begin with.  I began as Jenny Dean suggests but decided to try solar dyeing.  You can see the wool in the top of the jar wrapped in a couple of yellow onion nets.


Two days after beginning the dyebath, I picked a whole extra round of flowers, sieved out the ones that had been steeping two days, gave them to the worms in our worm farm and added a fresh lot of flowers to my dye jar.  The dye liquid was a plum colour and a little thicker than water.  I took the second round of flowers out after they gave their colour up.


Well, after a good fortnight in the jar, almost no colour on the fleece.  So I returned to Jenny Dean’s instructions and heated the dye bath.  The fleece still didn’t take up colour, but my sample card gave green on alum mordanted wool.  Green???  I have dyed with hibiscus before and achieved a rose pink on unmordanted washed fleece, which I spun up three-ply and knit into socks for my mother.  Green isn’t even on Jenny Dean’s horizon.  Deep, olive green (checked against a couple of friends with decent eyesight).

So, I put a skein of alum mordanted, commercial superwash in the dye bath, heated again and my skein turned steely grey.  This picture gets the colour right despite its defects in the focus department:


To me, this is quite bizarre.  I can only think that the fleece failed to take colour because it was inadequately scoured, though it didn’t feel at all greasy or sticky.  Polwarth is a high-grease breed.  But how I can explain the green and grey outcomes?  Well, I can’t–and I await your thoughts.  Dye pots which had been inadequately cleaned might mean there was some iron in the dye bath, but Jenny Dean suggests purple to pink would still be the outcome.  And after all this, the dye bath was still full of colour–red-purple colour.  Mystery!


Filed under Dye Plants, Natural dyeing