Just recently I had a short holiday in Katoomba (New South Wales). I spent part of a day doing some dyeing with a group of friends who meet as a textile group. One of my dear friends did a lovely job of organising a space to meet. The group had a lot of great skills–with artists, a chemist, bush regenerators, plant identifiers and a librarian among them. They had read and been inspired by Eco-Colour—India Flint‘s fabulous book on natural dyeing in which she sets out the eco-print process. But they had not had a great deal of success and some had formed the view that we have special trees in South Australia. Of course, we do have special trees in SA, and so do they in NSW! I tried to explain that it was far more likely a question of species than state boundary…
I love the stages in this process of setting up and bundling…
Cooking… we ran one pot with vinegar, one with iron and one with onion skins (the orange bundles have spent time in the onion skin bath and then been moved to a different pot).
And then the big reveal! It reminds me of that fantastic Judy Horacek cartoon… which by coincidence my friends have up at their place in Katoomba. Please follow the link to be introduced to a wonderful Australian cartoonist–and to see the cartoon! E Scoparia and E Cinerea on wool:
With so much expertise–and because my wise and sweetheart friends who were hosting our holiday as well as dye day had been out collecting and applying plant knowledge–we were able to try out some local species. These samples are all on silk noil scraps, and have all been in hot water for at least an hour–just to test their potential really.
We couldn’t resist trying Indigofera Australis even though it didn’t seem likely a hot process would be ideal for an indigo-bearing plant. It wasn’t, leaving almost no mark except when dipped in an iron modifier. Here it is, before and after. The yellowy-greenish tinge is an effect of photography indoors. Sorry about that part.
E Radiata, the Narrow-Leaved Peppermint:
One of the especially beloved and tall local species is E Oreades, the Blue Mountains Ash–a truly local-to-Katoomba tree:
And finally, E Pulverulenta, the Silver-leaved Mountain Gum, is a vulnerable species in the local area. As a result, people who want to make sure it lives on are planting it in towns, and this sample came from a street tree. Dyers will now have an additional reason to support the conservation effort!
A big, big thanks to my Katoomba friends, and to the textile group for having me!