Tag Archives: not tan again!

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!


Leave a comment

Filed under Eucalypts, Fibre preparation, Natural dyeing, Spinning

Local windfalls 2

I went for a walk the other day after more gale force winds.  The wind had been so impressive I watched every piece of mulch in our backyard become airborne the previous evening!  I took my trusty secateurs and a calico bag with me.

My first candidate (for the dye pot) is a tree my father calls Queensland Box.  Wikipedia suggests my father is right, and also that this tree is widely cultivated outside Australia.  It is Lophestemon Confertus–and its flower is just lovely (go to Wilkipedia if you’d like to see it–they are not in flower here right now).  The trunks peel to a lovely burnt orange but at present this process has barely begun.


They are widely planted as street trees here.

IMAG2321  #

And they certainly are fruiting, with two generations of seed pods on show at present among glossy leaves.


Two generations of fruit is one thing. Dye pot candidate two had four generations on show.  This eucalypt has been pruned ruthlessly but shows mostly smooth bark with rough, peeling bark near the base.  My best guess is E Macrandra (River Yate)–but this really is a guess.


Now for the reproductive material! I think this is a ‘flattened, strap like peduncle’ as constantly referred to in my reference works. Those tiny ‘fingers’ are buds.


Here the buds are again, a lot further along, in the second generation:


Immature fruit:


Still immature but older fruit:


Finally, I came past a stand of ironbarks where I often collect after wind, and collected my third candidate.  It’s a mixed stand from which I sometimes get good colour and sometimes very little.  Three dye pots full waiting their turn on the hob…


The results were not tremendously exciting… different shades of tan and pale apricot from the eucalypts (clearly the ironbark was not E Sideroxylon). I have to confess that I forgot to photograph these unexciting outcomes before overdyeing them with E Cinerea.  The Queensland Box showed its capacity to give tan in the presence of alum, especially.  The samples are (from left to right) wool, wool+alum, silk and cotton.


Leave a comment

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

Neighbourhood windfalls 1

We’ve had gale force winds here lately.  One morning about a week ago, 40% of my city had no power when we woke up (we were happily still connected to the grid).  Needless to say, this has led to windfalls, and I was still collecting them yesterday as further gale force winds began a week later.

The first windfall was an ironbark.  Guessing from its location (a stand of three ironbarks) and the gumnuts still intact, I think it is E Tricarpa. Sadly, just as unremarkable as a dye plant, as the last time I tried!


I have not managed to identify this tree, partly because it branches metres above ground level.  Even with so much of its canopy on the ground, I didn’t find a single bud, flower or fruit to help me identify it.  The trunk is rough and pale. The whole tree is difficult to capture in a photo, especially on such a gloomy day.  It must be at least 20 metres tall.


It seems to be under attack from some kind of scale insect.  Every single leaf was affected. Here it is after some hours in hot water–suggestive of a beige outcome….


Compare my third windfall.  This is a tree that has been cut to accommodate cars parking beside it, in the car park of a recreation area.  I haven’t been sure whether it was E Scoparia, E Camaldulensis, or some other unknown eucalypt.  Both E Scoparia and E Camaldulensis have similar shaped and sized leaves, small fruit and both can have pale, smooth trunks (but this trunk looks more E Camaldulensis to my admittedly self-trained eye).  The branch that fell to the ground had an uncharacteristically large number of fruit on it for E Scoparia.  On the other hand, the clusters of seven fruit with 3 valves apiece made me think it might be E Scoparia after all.  So did the colour of the dye bath, though the leaves did not turn orange the way E Scoparia usually does.

In spite of the colour of that dye bath, the result says that this is not E Scoparia, and the 3 valves say that it isn’t E Camaldulensis either (4 valves).  Even with vinegar to help bring out whatever orange or red might be there to be had, and still damp from the dyebath… the 3 valved tree is at the top (brown-beige?) and the 20 metre tall tree is at the bottom (caramel-beige).


Here are the results of a bath with a fallen branch from an actual E Scoparia, downed in the same windy night.  They’re the red and orange samples, with the E Tricarpa for contrast.



Filed under Dye Plants, Eucalypts, Natural dyeing

Intriguing trees…

I returned today to two trees I have sampled a little that are growing on my favourite running track.  We rode our bikes down it, so I took pictures (and some more leaves, needless to say!)

IMAG2069 IMAG2073

Into the dye pot they went, with a sample card.


Since I have two burners, I also ran a pot from leaves I collected when we went planting native trees on a friend’s farm.  It looked like E Cinerea to me… but an enormous tree, growing where there is so much more water than in the city where we live.


The dye pot confirms that the E Cinerea gives great colour.  And the mystery trees gave  rusty orange with some tan undertones on handspun wool with no mordant, and brown on alum mordanted superwash.  Even more intriguing, really!


Filed under Dye Plants, Eucalypts, Natural dyeing

Plum Pine 5: Lightfastness

Having discovered that plum pine had so much potential for colour, I felt obliged to test for lightfastness and washfastness. This is my lightfastness testing apparatus on the day I set it up: it is a none too sophisticated set of threads wrapped around card, inside a heavy card envelope with a window cut out of it, which has been sitting in the front window since 23 June 2013.


At the top, 3 silk thread samples, handspun Wensleydale, handspun Polwarth, two shades dyed on BWM alpaca rich and finally, two shades dyed on Patonyle (superwash woool+nylon blend).

After over a month in the (winter) sun, fading is quite evident.  I realise now that I could have made a lightfastness test which made the results clearer, but you’re stuck with my limitations on this learning curve. If you squint, you can see the original colour at the sides.  The fibre that performed best was the handspun wensleydale with alum.  It was also the winner on the washfastness test.


I have to say that I think I have chosen well in using the bulk of the yarn I dyed for some slippers (they are Fibertrends Clogs), which might spend their lives tucked under a bed and come out only at night!  Here they are awaiting felting…


And here they are after a wash at 40C, with some commercially dyed companions.



Filed under Dye Plants, Dyefastness, Natural dyeing

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

Dyeing in Katoomba–and some local-to-Katoomba eucalypt species

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-ColourIndia 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!


Filed under Dye Plants, Eucalypts, Leaf prints, Natural dyeing

Paxillus Involutus

We have some very impressive fungi coming up in our front garden.


Unbelievably, one of our neighbours is a mycologist who was only too happy to tell me what they are.  Paxillus Involutus, also known as ‘Poison Pax’.  I readily agreed not to include them in dinner! These fungi are not native to Australia but have been inadvertently introduced.  We initially thought their appearance in the root zone of a silver birch at our place meant the birch might not live long.  It turns out that these fungi serve the plant and form a relationship with it which is of benefit to the tree.


I’ve wandered the interwebs looking for information and discovered a range of different perspectives on what colour these fungi can give in dyeing, with some suggesting a shade of beige–Riihivilla says they are ‘not worth picking most of the time’– while other dyers suggest they give pinkish and greenish browns.  None of it sounds really thrilling, but my opportunities for sustainably dyeing with fungi have been non existent so far.  So…  I consulted Karen Casselman’s Craft of the Dyer, picked a specimen, tore it up and cooked it for an hour.  Then, in with my test sample.  I kept that hot for a further hour.  It doesn’t really surprise me that Riihivilla is right about this … but it was so exciting to have this fungus in my own yard, I had to try it out.


Since I’m talking fungi, here are some I came across walking through Botanic Park on a completely different dye mission on the weekend.  I left them exactly as I found them.


On the whole, the best thing for a fungi ignoramus to do, I believe, except when acting on expert advice.



Filed under Dye Plants, Natural dyeing

Lillypilly fruit


Lillypillies are in fruit around my suburb.  They are the fruit of a large, glossy-leaved forest tree and they stain the footpath in a most impressive and promising manner.  This one is Szygium Smithii (but this is a family of trees some of which are widely grown ornamentally in Australia).  The fruit is edible, but in the case of this species, unexciting in terms of flavour, with a crisp texture and a fairly large seed inside.  On the dye front…  I did not find this an exciting outcome.  Fawn on silk (the card on the right), brown on wool with alum and tan on unmordanted wool.  I think I’ll stick with cooking lillypillies and admiring their enormousness and the spectacle of so much fruit!



Filed under Dye Plants, Natural dyeing

Random harvest

In the beginning, when I’d read the Handweavers and Spinners Guild of Victoria Dyemaking with Australian Flora (1974) and perhaps Jean Carman’s Dyemaking with Eucalypts (1978) and knew just about nothing about identifying eucalypts, I used to just choose a tree at random and try it out on some wool.  Sometimes that is still the thing to do!

Last week I had a testing trip home from work by public transport.  It took one and a half times as long as doing the trip by bike would have done, partly because I travelled on a bus route further from home and walked a good way.  So I looked for entertainment on my walk.  This rough barked tree was in flower (small, cream-white flowers) and hanging through a park fence.


Lots of fruit in several stages of maturity.  I took a small leafy sample. 


I kept walking.and came across this tree with its spectacular peeling bark and bronzed trunk by the tramline.  There was a broken branch still hanging suspended from the intact branches, so I broke off enough dried leaves to make a meaningful test dye bath.

IMAG1109 IMAG1110

Along the tramline closer to home, I saw this beauty with coppery bark (suggesting it might be a mallet, I believe) but quite a broad leaf by comparison with the family member I know best, the swamp mallet, E Spathulata. A few more leaves selected.

IMAG1111 IMAG1112

Finally, I passed a friend’s place.  His neighbour’s house had been demolished that day and part of the crepe myrtle (Lagerstroemia Indica) on the street had been a casualty, so I picked a sample of that, too, and when he came out of his garden, there was a chat to be had as well. Crepe myrtle turns out not o be an indigenous species.


And now for the (dyeing) punchline.  I won’t be losing sleep identifying these trees! That’s the crepe myrtle to the left.  You can see the leaves have acted as a resist to the iron in my bath, with some tan patterning from the leaves themselves.


And… here is the result from the dried leaf dye bath from the tree with bark peeling in strips.  Tan or brown, depending.



Filed under Dye Plants, Eucalypts, Leaf prints, Natural dyeing