Tag Archives: neighbourhood dyeplants

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

Sampling eucalypts


As we drove home from exercise group last Saturday morning, it became clear that a big part of a tree had been cut down beside a warehouse-style business near home.  A big chunk of tree canopy was lying on the footpath.  I didn’t think I had sampled the tree in question, but there are several in that area that look like E Scoparia, but have been pruned to branch very high–out of reach.  There isn’t much hope of my identifying this one–it has no fruit, flowers or buds on it right now, though it does have red twigs and white-barked branches and leaves the right shape for E Scoparia.   I have had some success with leaves from the gutters on that street, but not right where these branches were lying.  I went back and applied my secateurs.


To my sadness when I actually stopped I could see that a tree had been felled and that its trunk had been taken away.  The very base of it was all that was left, and it was clear that a large section of the root mass had rotted away or become diseased.  Just the same… the continuing loss of trees around our way feels relentless. This week someone else aggrieved by the felling of three massive trees on one block which I posted about recently took a spray can to the fence of the block in question.  One fence had something I can’t fully reprint here: ‘What the f*** have you done?’, and the other fence said the neighbourhood was in mourning for the loss of the trees and that planning laws should be changed.  I thought I would take a photo but this morning there was a chap with a paintbrush taking it out less than 48 hours after it went up.

But this is no reason to allow all the leaves of this felled tree to go to commercial composting if I could dye with them and then compost them.  Needless to say, after this flame orange result, I went back and cut all I could get into a chaff bag (that’s a very big sack, in my terms). As a bonus to my visit, the tree had been felled beside an E Cinerea, so I picked up every last leaf that had fallen from the E Cinerea too.  I’ll be running a workshop at my Guild in June and I’ll need to bring a goodly amount of dye material.


This next eucalypt was standing in the parklands in North Adelaide.  I went there early one morning for an appointment so had a walk before my appointment.  I decided to sample it because India Flint suggests silver grey leaved eucalypts are promising dye plants.  The buds were so pretty!


Clearly when it flowers there are many flowers… but not yet…


The tree was an interesting shape…


There was the intriguing feature of two different coloured trunks coming from one lignotuber.


And I just can’t explain why there were so many land snails, but I love land snails.


The result in the dyebath was a pale apricot.


Then there was this tree, growing on the far outskirts of my workplace just outside a car park.  It seems like a box (one branch of the eucalypt family) to me.


It was gloriously in flower, full of bees and birds.


When I went back in the evening, I realised there were a few of these trees and there were also fallen branches.  Well worth sampling, in my view!


I loved the colour from this plant, and I used a dyeing strategy India Flint described in Melbourne.  Far less energy use and potential for fibre damage… and clearly this may become my new normal way to dye with eucalypts!



Filed under Dye Plants, Eucalypts, Natural dyeing

Drive-by dyeing and mending

On my bike ride home from work (about a 40 minute ride), I pass just one Eucalyptus Cinerea. Well, there are two, but one is inside someone’s front garden.  A person has to have some boundaries!  The street tree had dropped a small branch.


I decided I’d better collect it.  Usually I carry a calico bag in my bike pannier for such contingencies, but this was what I found when I scrabbled about in the bottom of my pannier on the day, so in went all the stray leaves I could find.


This tree has had to contend with a lot.  It has had a  very strange pruning job designed to protect the electrical wires that now pass through its branches.  The pruning took out a lot of the canopy, but the tree is still standing.  For this, I am grateful.


Recent events have caused me to reflect on the way I think about trees on my regular routes… like old acquaintances.  I think about them as I pass, the way I think of people when I pass near their homes without visiting.  I notice what happens to them.  I check them over when I have the chance.  I remember how they were when they were younger, or before that accident befell them.  It’s not entirely unlike the way I notice people I don’t know well, but see out and about in the neighbourhood regularly.

Further along, I saw that my “thanks for cycling” bunting had been ripped and some of it was lying on the ground.  Soon it was in my other pannier headed for the mending pile.


A few days later, the E Cinerea made it into the dye pot and produced its usual dependable flamelike orange.  I also collected some ironbark leaves that had fallen in the parklands near where we had exercise class.  Once the E Cinerea was all but exhausted I reused that dyebath with the ironbark leaves, thinking I would save water and energy, but clearly this was not E Sideroxylon–it produced that sad, damp little pile of fawn alpaca on the right.


I have come to regard this as a sign: The orange leaves in the picture below are the E Cinerea leaves, which have gone from silver-grey-green to orange in the dyebath.  The ironbark leaves, on the other hand, have remained a robustly green shade even after cooking.


And, I’ve mended the bunting ready to hang it again on a suitable occasion…



Filed under Craftivism, Dye Plants, Eucalypts, Natural dyeing, Neighbourhood pleasures

Leaf prints of the week: Pecan and Eucalyptus on cotton

Last week there was some leaf printing. Eucalyptus Scoparia leaves, one of my favourites.


Pecan leaves, inspired by Lotta Helleberg (when I went to her blog to insert this link there was an especially delectable pecan leaf printed fabric on show, by complete coincidence) and by a wonderful lunch with friends who have a pecan tree. The leaves have been patiently waiting in my freezer.


Let me admit right here and now that I had some alum and tannin mordanted fabric which took no colour at all–I must have made some kind of mistake there!


As always, the thrill of seeing good things begin to emerge.


Then waiting to unwrap bundles.  I saved these until I had a friend over for dinner who I realised would enjoy the reveal as much as I do.


Some pecan prints were better than others, but the good ones are lovely.


And the Eucalyptus leaf prints were all I hoped for and more.



Filed under Eucalypts, Fibre preparation, Leaf prints

More tree loving craftivism

My second ‘banner’ has gone up another neighbourhood tree.  This one is my favourite E Scoparia. It was the first really promising dye eucalypt I discovered.  It used to be home to a pair of piping shrikes, who nested there in their little mud cup for many seasons.  In the last year it has acquired a nesting box and we’ve seen rosellas coming in and out of it.


This is the tree my friends and I have been mulching and weeding and we have planted in an understory of native ground covers, mostly forms of saltbush, which are now doing really well.  If you have been reading a while you will have seen this tree protected from passing Royal Show foot traffic in earlier posts here and here.  Those images show how much the groundcover project has progressed in the last 18 months or so.  In the beginning, people would remove plant guards, pull out small plants soon after we put them in or just trample young plants by accident.  Not any more.  I think the evidence of care and the success of the surviving understorey plants generates more thoughtful treatment from passersby, and it’s clear that lots of local people now understand that their neighbours are making efforts that are transforming an almost bare patch of hard earth scattered with weeds and rubbish, into something lovely.  I collected the rubbish that had landed under it this morning and maybe that is ebbing a little too.


So, four of us stood and admired this tree, delectable breakfast smoothies in hand, and tied on this little banner of admiration and appreciation.


And here’s the full length picture…


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Filed under Craftivism, Dye Plants, Eucalypts, Leaf prints, Neighbourhood pleasures, Sewing

Bark dyes on alpaca and wool yarn

Here it is… some of my holiday knitting, ready to go!


Last year I ran some workshops at the Guild, and I ended up with quite a quantity of Bendigo Woollen Mills Alpaca Rich in a shade of white called ‘rich magnolia’… which I was never going to use in this colourway.


So… I have been skeining and dyeing it. Unevenly…


More evenly…


And in quite a range of shades.  The one right at the bottom in the picture below is handspun that had been mordanted with alum, dyed in logwood exhaust, suffered some kind of surprise bleaching episode in our laundry and then gone through two eucalyptus baths.  It looks great now, but what a soap opera of a story!


And now… turned into balls and ready to be holiday knitting! Would you believe… slippers?



Filed under Eucalypts, Natural dyeing

Dyeing experiment: Chicory ‘Red Dandelion’ root

I have seen quite a few claims that it is possible to get red dye from dandelion root in print.  But not usually with any detailed instructions.  In Craft of the Dyer Karen Casselman said she had tried numerous times without success to get red from dandelion root.  She invited readers to write in if they knew how it could be done. I don’t know how it can be done.  But when I started growing Chicory ‘Red Dandelion’ the stems and leaf ribs were such a vibrant deep red I promised myself I would try it out just in case.


Many a happy dinner has come from this plant! When I harvested the root the plants were huge, and full of blue flowers, and falling all over other vegetables, at more promising stages in their life cycles.  Out came the chicory, destined to become chicken happiness.  Here are the roots, just as unpromising looking as dandelion roots (in the matter of red dye at any rate).


Chopped and soaking:


After an hour of cooking:


Those roots had not released any colour at all.  So–one more dead end in the mystery of red dye from dandelion roots… There is a dyer on Ravelry who says she has achieved red from a specific dandelion by a cold ammonia process… but her description is not like any dandelion I have seen here so far…


Filed under Dye Plants, Natural dyeing

Harvest time: Eucalyptus Scoparia bark

‘Tis the season for bark collecting, again!  I’ve been out on my trusty bike visiting all the E Scoparias I know and investigating others that might prove to be (or not to be) E Scoparia. I pull my bike over to pack bark into a bag, trampling on it to crush it and make space for more, and filling again before loading my panniers.  Or, go to visit friends with my big bucket in hand and pick up whatever has fallen since my last visit.  Or, head out for a run, leaving my rolled up bag under a tree and pick it up to fill on my cool-down walk on the way back.  This E Scoparia, tucked in behind the foliage of a carob tree, is peeling lavishly.


At home, I stash the bark in a chook feed sack, offering more opportunities for trampling which let me stack a lot of bark into one bag and get it into a form that will go into the dyepot with minimal fuss.


This week, I found a new E Scoparia (at least, that was my hope).  I collected a bag full of bark and it is now soaking so I can test whether I have that right, in consultation with the dyepot. A friend who appreciates natural dyeing lives in this street–so I’ll look forward to telling her if she has a great dye tree at the end of her street! Blackett St:


I also collected bark from this enormous specimen.  Last year I collected a lot of bark from this tree and then found I had one bag of bark that gave brown and not red to orange as expected.  I suspect that means this is not an E Scoparia.  Checking it out again today it is bigger than any other tree I believe to be E Scoparia and it has many more fruits visible and clinging to the stem.  My initial sense is that the bark smells different, too. The leaves give fantastic colour (at least they did before someone took a chainsaw to all the lower branches), but I am running a trial bark pot before the tree sheds the main part of its bark.  It is soaking alongside the other one as I write. Laught Ave:


Next day, here are the dye baths, three hours in, presented in the same order as the trees from which the bark came. They look remarkably similar but smell quite different:

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Here are the (still wet) yarns that came from those dyepots, in the same order again.  Clearly, the second tree is not E Scoparia–or–for some reason its context means it doesn’t give the same colour.


As I have had great results from the leaves of that second tree, I pulled the bark out, put some fallen leaves in, and re-dyed the tan skein…!



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

Harvesting the neighbourhood: Dyer’s Chamomile

This summer, I have been collecting dyer’s chamomile for the first time.  I have some in the garden, gifted to me by a fellow Guild member who was keen to have some of my madder (this wish granted, needless to say)! It has white petals.


But recently I found some with vivid yellow petals in the parklands beside the river Torrens.

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Our exercise class were astonished when I said I was planning to harvest while we were out on a DIY exercise session (our instructor was off doing the Busselton Ironman–she is our hero).  They offered to shield me from passersby who might intervene.  I think they underestimated how scared most people seem to be when they see someone doing something so inexplicable (to them)! I let them know I’d only be taking the dead flowers and we all relaxed again.  The patch is so big I really want to go back with more time… and it is flowering so generously, I am sure I have weeks in which to organise a return visit.


Meanwhile, we’ve been harvesting at home, too.


I keep thinking I’ll make rhubarb leaf mordant, and then not getting round to it!


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Filed under Dye Plants, Eucalypts, Neighbourhood pleasures

Eucalyptus dyed gradient yarns

Some time ago I blogged about dyeing with windfall eucalyptus leaves. I had been dyeing over white corriedale and had quite a range of colours in the range of ochre and caramel through flame orange and… opinions differ about whether that really is red. Here it is, wet from dyeing and ready to be rinsed:


I divided my fleece up into colour groupings, carded it and pulled a roving straight from the carder drum with a diz.  What a great technique.  You can find it on YouTube, but it was watching a friend from the Guild demonstrate it that really convinced me to try it out.  This Youtube video has an explanation of the same simple homemade diz my friend has made, so maybe she was inspired by that video.  Here are my rovings.  Creating these made me feel like I have learned a few things about fleece preparation.


Then I created bumps of roving with segments of each colour, lined up to create a gradient from ochre through to reddish. Then, there was spinning and plying and skeining and washing–spinning being a craft of many stages–and now…


I am so happy with this yarn! I can’t wait to share it with the friends whose sheep this wool came from.  Coincidentally, the week I finished this yarn, they invited me to their place for shearing time.



Filed under Eucalypts, Fibre preparation, Natural dyeing, Spinning