Tag Archives: osage orange

Jaywalkers in osage orange and indigo

First, there was some undyed wool and silk yarn.

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Then, there was osage orange sawdust. The colour was so sunny and lovely I considered leaving it at that.  But there was an indigo plan.

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The fructose vat, no less.

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So one fine day there was  variegated yellow-green-green-blue yarn.  (Yes, that is madder on the left).

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Jaywalker seemed the obvious pattern for the job.  Here we are at the bus stop after work.

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And at a coffee shop waiting for a delicate operation to be performed on my guitar across the road.

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And out for dinner at the central markets with our friends.

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We even went to a conference in Melbourne.

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This Melbourne arcade was so splendid I took photos just for the pleasure of it.

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Here is the sock in the foyer of the unglamorous conference venue, with its best feature (the flower arrangement).

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And here, at last, are the finished socks!

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I like the way this pattern zigs and zags.

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I like to use a reinforced heel stitch.

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And I’m pretty happy with the dyeing.  Hopefully the recipient will like them too when she returns from her current extended travelling.  They’re going in the mail today, with about 2 metres of leftover yarn.  Phew!  Just made it!

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Filed under Knitting, Natural dyeing

Indigo fructose vat

I am determined to learn to use Michel Garcia’s fructose indigo vat rather than the very simple but clearly toxic and stinky hydrosulphite vat. I am also on a mission to create handspun, plant dyed yarns for colourwork, and I have a pattern in mind which requires some greens.  Also a plan about sock yarn in which this previously undyed, now (osage orange yellow) skein of BFL/silk becomes a variegated green.

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I prepared the vat and waited for a bronze sheen and yellow-green liquid below as signs reduction (the removal of oxygen from the vat) had been achieved.  I have a Ph meter to ensure the Ph is within range.

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I had success with reducing the vat but a lot of difficulty in getting the Ph into a range suitable for wool.  In the end, I decided to make the most of it and dipped my ugly cotton bags several times.

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In all I dipped them three times and they are now an old denim colour which is a decided improvement.

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Once I had managed the Ph, next came fleece from Viola, previously dyed in coreopsis or osage orange.

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Finally, in went the gloriously yellow sock yarn.  That yellow was so awesome I was tempted to leave it as it stood.  But I was looking for yellows and various shades of green, and here they are, ready for the next stage of my cunning plan….

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Filed under Natural dyeing


I have been so excited by my recent colour knitting success that I have been moved to dye more shades and spin with the intention of colour knitting.  Not just spinning up all kinds of stuff and then deciding to use it in stranded colourwork on a whim.  Though that turned out remarkably well, and the errant graph book with the knobby club rush design in it magically appeared on the weekend, nestled among sheet music (my filing clearly needs more work–I had been looking for it in the dyeing and knitting collections–what was I thinking)!

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I’ve been cold mordanting Viola’s fleece with alum in preparation.  She is a white/silver grey/dark grey sheep, and that will give me room for a bit of heathery loveliness, I think.  These big jars were being thrown out at the Guild and this seems a decent use for them. Some BFL/silk sock yarn has been getting the same cold mordant treatment, because why not?

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I had quite a lot of coreopsis flowers, because my mother is such a generous woman, she saves her dead flowers for me. And in case anyone ever wondered where my thrifty ways come from, these flowers were lovingly collected as they wilted and then dried–and then delivered in paper bags previously containing mushrooms and purchases from the newsagent, and in a reused cardboard box that was lined with two layers of pre-loved Christmas wrapping paper. Bless her heart, my Mum is a treasure.

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There were also osage orange shavings that had been left at the Guild.  Many years old, to judge by the packaging.  At times such as this, Jenny Dean is my trusted Guide.  So I followed her instructions from Wild Colour as best I could.  It’s an interesting thing, this dyeing with only me there in body, but with a little posse of imaginary friends about me, some of whom I’ve never met! Jenny says osage orange can give more dye on a  later extraction and India would no doubt agree on principle (I have been rereading Eco Colour)… so with the three of us in agreement on that, I planned an exhaust bath from the beginning and in due course, decided to honour Mum’s collection by tossing that in too…

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After the first stage of heating, I filtered out the dyestuffs through an old nylon stocking (also deposited at the Guild in quantity–more of my imaginary friends present on this occasion in tangible and intangible ways!)

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And in went the fibres.  They had a nice long wait in the dye baths after the heating stage was over.

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The sock yarn took the dye with alacrity–that golden yellow is rather lovely, I think–I am planning to overdye with indigo, but this yellow is glorious as it is.  I thought I remembered the coreopsis being a more golden yellow and the osage orange being a colder shade, but not this time.  They look remarkably similar.

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The exhaust bath made use of the stocking too… and out came some paler but still yellow fleece.  My fingers are itching but the day job calls… and there has been yet more knitting…

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Filed under Fibre preparation, Natural dyeing

Cool spectrum gradient yarn

There has been some plain Jane spinning.  Three ply natural Polwarth, finaly plied after a long wait. Not my best work, unfortunately.  One of the singles is plumper and fluffier than the other two.  Just the same, it’s yarn and it’s a true three ply made from three singles.


In the not-so-plain stakes, there has also been plying of some of the holiday spinning.  This one is Malcolm the Corriedale, dyed yellow with osange orange and my mother’s coreopsis flowers (she is generous enough to collect her dead flowers for me and such a committed gardener that she deadheads her coreopsis).  I overdyed with indigo to create greens and, of course, blue.



No sign of crocking, just in case you’re wondering!  I have several more flour sacks of this fibre carded, pulled into roving through a diz and ready to spin.  Mmmm!


The yarn is three ply and I’ve chain plied it so it will stripe… and just for the sheer pleasure of it.  Because I met internet spinners before I met many in real life, chain plying never seemed to me to be an unusual skill.  I took it up quite early in my spinning career and expected it to be challenging, because I was beginner and most things were challenging.  While I was plying this yarn at my regular Guild group, women who have been spinning for decades were commenting about how easy I made it look.  Ah, the warm glow of competence…  I admire all the things they can do that I find difficult, and there they are, doing just the same thing in reverse.



Filed under Fibre preparation, Natural dyeing, Spinning

Alas, poor Malcolm the Corriedale

We had a glorious visit to our friends in the hills on the weekend. There were recently shorn alpacas.  In black…


In white…


And in cinnamon.  But like the sheep, the brown alpacas were too shy for photos.  There was a woodlot of blackwood trees, and some stumps with very impressive fungi growing on them:


There was a wealth of eucalypts and a knowledgeable community member who knew what many of them were. I brought home E Nicholii leaves (I have not had the chance to greet a fully grown specimen before, let alone a row of them), E Cinerea leaves and some massive juvenile E Globulus leaves.


There was fine company, cake and scones and home grown cherries.  Not only that, but koala sightings and visits with rescue joeys (baby kangaroos whose mothers have been killed on the road, being raised by hand with tender loving care).  Such awesomeness!  I took lots of handspun yarn and left quite a bit behind where creative minds were whirling with plans and fingers were itching to get knitting… but there was bad news too.  I got to meet with the people who hand raised the corriedale whose fleece I have been working with most recently, from a lamb.  And sadly, poor Malcolm had recently and unexpectedly died, just before the shearer was due to visit.  We paused on Malcolm’s grave.  So it was special to have taken yarns made from Malcolm’s fleece to share… and I still have some, plus fleece that I dyed with eucalypts last week (it is E Scoparia bark peeling season) …



And fleece that is prepared and ready to spin, from my recent coreopsis–osage orange–indigo dyeing season.  So… although I never did get to meet Malcolm, it’s conceivable I’ve spent more hours with my hands in his fleece than anyone…


And I now have 5 alpaca fleeces and one from Lentil the sheep to think about and share around, such is the generosity of our friends!


Filed under Dye Plants, Eucalypts, Fibre preparation, Natural dyeing, Spinning

Yellows from coreopsis flowers and osage orange

I have decided to branch out from the eucalyptus based palette of ochre–caramel–tan–orange–red–maroon I have been so focused on for the last while and plan toward an indigo vat.  Don’t you love these bold statements?

I still love the eucalypt colours: here, a small quantity of alpaca passing through various stages of preparation.  Picked, dyed locks;


Partially carded batt;


and, finally, yarn–pictured in the dyer’s chamomile patch.


I have decided to try for yellow–green–blue transitions, which will necessarily begin with yellow.  I had coreopsis flowers my mother saved me one summer, as she deadheaded her plants. This collection of flower heads speak to me of her love and her fine qualities as a gardener and a person who loves to share.  I had reservations about the colour I would get from them, as some had gone mouldy.  Her -plants are just so prolific–the stack of wilted heads had trapped enough moisture to create mould.


I also had a little remaining quantity of osage orange shavings of antiquity, gifted to me from the Guild.


I prepared them both for the dyebath, but have to say my tea ball was not a good enough receptacle to retain the osage orange.  I not only sieved the dye vat before adding wool (thank goodness I remembered to do this as I tackled it one night when the amount of sawdust in the vat was not as obvious as in the clear light of day) but also placed the whole tea ball in another fine cloth bag before running an exhaust bath.


Even after the first bath of each dye, there was a lot of colour left, so I ran an exhaust bath and dyed a total of about 800g of white corriedale.  I was especially impressed with the amount of colour and the wonderful smell of the coreopsis bath.  I need not have worried about the mould.  Here is the coreopsis bath between dyeings.


The resulting yellows are lovely.  On the left, coreopsis bath 1, then coreopsis bath 2, osage orange bath 1 and osage orange bath 2.  The coreopsis yellows are quite buttery and golden and the osage orange colours are a little more lemony.  And, there is further evidence that grass seeds and other vegetable matter take dyes quite well!  Now, to build up my courage for the indigo stage and some greens and blues.



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

Abandoned dyestuffs of the past

A while back, I became the happy recipient of some dyestuffs that had been left at my Guild long ago.  Most were labelled, some were not.  The only one I had previously tried was indigo.  I’m thinking we’ll dye with some of them at natural dyeing workshops I’m running for the guild this year, but I needed to try them out first, check they still have dyeing capacity.  There are some in tiny quantities.  This one, for instance.  8g of something that looks like a dried fruit or husk, between the size of a hazelnut and a pea.  I posted this picture on natural dyeing fora online but got no clues at all. I await any clues readers might be able to offer.


The fact that I can’t identify it is a shame, because here is what happened when my dear friend and I had a dyeing day and tried it out. We soaked it overnight (in rainwater); simmered for an hour, added fibres mordanted in alum and here is the resulting colour. The yarn is mohair mordanted in alum, the sample card (wool and wool+alum) won’t wash off, and the fabric is silk, no mordant.  Burgundy… maroon yarns (with pink silk as a background).


We dyed with Osage Orange, which gave jewel bright yellows on silk especially; and Logwood, which gave strong purples even on the second bath (I plan a third).


The Madder is still soaking; and then there is the Red Sanderswood/Red Sandalwood.  Based on reading Jenny Dean‘s informative book Wild Colour, my dependable guide in many such matters, I expected hues of orange to brown.  I expected to think ‘why ever import this wood when these colours are readily obtainable from so many local plants’?  But nature is a complicated thing.  I did not expect this:


The roving is unmordanted merino.  Almost no dye took at all.  What did take amounts to a smudge of orange.  The cloth is cotton mordanted with soy, and it is quite a red-brown.  Rust, perhaps.  The skeins are alpaca-wool blend and mohair, both mordanted in alum.  They are vivid purple, and so is the wool mordanted in alum on the sample card.  I could scarcely tell the sanderswood skeins apart from the logwood dyed skeins once they dried.

Jenny Dean offers no suggestion of purple from this plant using any combination of mordants.  It can’t be a simple case of mislabelling–the logwood baths have produced purple on silk and cotton as well as wool.  The sample card was mordanted months ago, using different wool and different alum than these skeins, and any contaminants in my dyepots would have been different, surely.  Even my rainwater will have changed in that time.  What can it mean?  My friend and I decided it meant ‘dye more protein fibres mordanted in alum’, because we both think purple is an exciting outcome!

More natural dyeing mystery–meaning the depths of my ignorance are still being plumbed by this process.  But since the result was purple… I mean, purple… I’m not feeling sad about this outcome at all.  And the exhaust dyebaths were good fun too.  The madder is on its third turn as I write.  But more on that later…



Filed under Natural dyeing