Tag Archives: red

Dyes of antiquity: Madder root

Three cheers for dried madder root!

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You may remember that I acquired some through the Guild.  I set out by pouring boiling water over it twice, and draining off the resulting liquid.  This is a strategy which is usually described as a good idea in order to help separate some of the brown and yellow pigments in the root from those which might produce red.  The resulting liquid was very dark brown.  I saved it for later experimentation.  I’ll get back to that!

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Every long term reader of this blog knows I can organise orange dye in a heartbeat, so I was hoping for red from madder.  When seen at the workshop I ran at the Guild, it was looking rather orange.

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However, time is needed.  And gentle heat.  This pot produced some light reds at the Guild. Once again, the cold processed alum, long steeped sample gave the most intense colour. Rhubarb (the two samples on the right hand side), not so much.

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I didn’t think it was done, however, so I took the whole dyebath home.  Happily, no mishaps en route.  Since then, I’ve been happily trying to exhaust this madder. I have overdyed grey corriedale. The fleece took up the dye differently in different parts of the locks (the weathered paler tips most of all).

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I turned it into roving while I kept dyeing…

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When I ran a dye bath with the rinse water… to my surprise it gave a strong red, stronger than the exhaust dyebath by far.  Here it is on the left, with the original dye bath on the right for comparison.

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I also dyed quite a bit of merino roving I happened to have put by, achieving three different shades. And some more grey corriedale… not bad going from madder root that might have been in those jars for decades.

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Natural dyeing workshop

I began the final stage of preparation for my natural dyeing workshop by packing the car to capacity the night before and steeping logwood and madder in hot water. These are more of the dyes that have been left at the Guild.  It seemed good to share them with other Guildies this way.

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I came through the parklands on my way to the Guild and stopped in homage to a few trees.  This one turned out to be E Tricarpa…

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The unpacking was quite a thing.  This is a view of the back seat of the car before unpacking.

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The steeped fermenting walnut hulls (another dyestuff left at the Guild) travelled in the front seat footwell, in a pot with a lid, in a big bucket in case of spills.  No spills.  Whew!! I put heat under them an hour before people arrived in hopes of getting it over with.  My friends, I will never do this again.  It may take me years to live down the smell this dye pot gave off!  At one point when a heater went on, someone told me they had found a dead mouse in the heater.  When I went to see, they were looking for a mouse they were sure must be in there because they could smell it.  Cough!  The women who were rostered on in the Little Glory Gallery in another part of the Guilds premises exclaimed.  So did the treasurer, who came in to work on the books and was similarly appalled.  Eventually walnut tailed off and a eucalyptus bark dyepot began to prevail.  The smell of natural dyeing had people who had come to the gallery wanting to come and see what we were doing all day!  I give you the walnut hulls I will be living down at the Guild for years to come.  They produced an inky dye.  Truly impressive.

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I set up a bit of a display table of yarns and knits, leaf prints, tea cosies, sample cards and books.

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People had their first go at India Flint’s eco-print technique.  Some had read the book but never tried it.  I don’t know how people can resist!  The Guild has a copper which had been repaired because we were planning to use it.  Use it we did!

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My Mum deadheaded her African marigolds for me through summer and they made a great yellow.

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I tried grinding the soaked madder in a blender as Rebecca Burgess suggests (the second hand blender was pretty challenged) and here it is in the dye bath, in its own stocking… we got some lovely reds.

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I used one of the bottles of pre-ground cochineal that had appeared in the dye room cupboard.  The colour was entirely startling!

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There was a pot of logwood that came out so deep it was virtually black.  There was a pot of E Scoparia bark that gave some burgundy on the first round and some tan for a skein added in later.  There was an E Scoparia leaf pot and an E Cinerea leaf pot–oranges of different shades.  The dye room at the Guild has four gas burners as well as the copper–so we went wild.

The wonder of unwrapping eco print bundles never wears thin!

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I used the opportunity of being at Beautiful Silks in March to acquire organic wool as well as silk noil twill and some silky merino for this workshop.  E Cinerea did its wonderful thing.

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And so did human imagination…

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The string print on the upper right of this next image was a lovely surprise…

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It was overcast and the results of the dye vats which were the focus of the day are seen here in all their glory drying in the Guild car park! These are eucalyptus and logwood.

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These are cochineal, madder and marigold.  I had mordanted some silk paj in alum and taken it along.  I tried eco printing it years ago and didn’t think much of the results.  Wendi of the Treasure suggested jewellery quality string (which sounds very promising to me), so I’d been planning to eucalypt dye them–but took this opportunity to expand my palette.  The silk went orange in the madder bath even though wool in the same bath was much more red–still good.

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People made their own series of test cards too.

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It was a day of happy experimentation, I think, the smell of fermented walnut hulls fighting it out with stewed eucalyptus bark notwithstanding.  The people who came were friendly, warm and generous–a delight to be among.  It was a treat to be in the company of other people who are fascinated by eucalypts and by the dye possibilities of plants. Folk were talking about what they might do with their cloth and how they might approach their neighbourhoods differently…  I hope that for at least some it will be the start of an exciting new journey.  By the end of the dye I was deeply weary.  I took the logwood, madder and cochineal baths home with me (after taking suitable precautions against spillage) and began some exhaust dye baths next day.  But by late afternoon I was down to twining silk string mindlessly and happily…

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Eucalyptus Polyanthemos

I’ve been curious about E Polyanthemos for ages.  I saw one on a tour of the Currency Creek Eucalyptus arboretum years back and I had already heard it was a good dye plant.  I am guessing it is mentioned in Eco-Colour.  It has been on my mental list for quite some time.  So when I found one that had been identified by a more knowledgeable person recently, I paid a lot of attention.

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I think the two trees I have been holding in mind as potential examples of E Polyanthmos might actually be E Polyanthemos on the basis of this sighting.

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It’s a lovely tree–those wide grey green leaves are truly lovely.  Evidently, they are also delicious, because this one was covered in leaves that had been nibbled by some kind of insect.

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This tiny sample went into my dyepot…

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And created very interesting prints. It intrigues me that one plant can create such different colours in such close proximity.  I have had wonderful colour from the buds of the other two trees I visit from time to time, and the tree is truly spectacular when in blossom, because the many-anthers its botanical name promises are needless to say held on many flowers which attract many birds.  Ah, the glory of eucalypts!

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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…

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In white…

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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:

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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.

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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) …

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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…

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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!

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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:

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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.

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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…

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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.

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Silkworms: 4 week update

The silkworm marathon continues. This week, there has been a hiatus in the relentless chewing while they prepare to shed their skins and move on to a still larger stage of life.

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Meanwhile, I have been carding my eucalyptus dyed corriedale in preparation for spinning…

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And creating another trash batt from the carder waste and some polwarth locks.

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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!

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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.

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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….

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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).

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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.

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Small things…

They say ‘small things amuse small minds’. I think that if you can be amused by small things, you can be amused and delighted on a regular basis.  And that small things are often delightful.  Moss, for instance.

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This is such a small thing. I loved Cossack Design’s needle safe, and what with all the embroidery going on round here, I decided to make my own needle case.  I think the last one I made was created in my primary school years–both long gone. 
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I decided on golden stitching for the edges, so dyed some silk with Silky Oak (Grevillea Robusta) leaves.  A nod to Ida Grae of Nature’s Colors fame for the recipe, wherever she may now be.  Hopefully hale and hearty and dyeing away though apparently no longer publishing.  How wonderful that she figured out this dye plant–which is native to Australia–from California!

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Here is the thread…

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And the inside of the needle case. These two fine scraps of recycled woolen blanket and that lovely piece of cotton string saved for just such a special occasion have found happy homes at last.

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Unidentified Eucalypt Buds of Wonder

I have seen this Eucalypt before, and dyed with it before. At most, I have had apricot on silk from the leaves.

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Sadly, I can tell when I am looking at the same species (I think) but have not been able to identify the species.  If any reader knows the species, I’d be glad of your advice.  The bark is a lovely rough tan.

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Then I found this one in full bud and beginning to flower, in early June.

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I decided to try again and got the same result: the leaves barely make a mark, but oh my!  The buds!

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Alpaca preparation

I’ve been having a lovely time spinning alpaca given to me by a generous friend.  She gave me samples of three different fleeces, white, black and what she rather fetchingly calls ‘champagne’.  I’ve been combing it and spinning it two ply and I’m very happy with the results.

I told my friend how lovely I thought the alpaca was, and she gave me more!  I have spun alpaca before, sometimes in quite a large quantity, but this has the longest staple I have ever seen, about 90 mm (these are the 90 mm matches I use to light to the dye pots–extra long.

I have to confess I have never washed alpaca, and it is always filthy, since alpacas roll and dust bathe.  My chooks dust bathe too, and watching them,  it’s no wonder that sand falls out of this fleece any time I move it! This fleece had so much dust in it that combing it was an outside activity that gave me hayfever.  I spun a lot of the white fleece rinsed and combed (that stopped the hayfever at least).  Then, I decided to brace myself and washed the rest of it.  And that led to dyeing the unspun fibre, as it turned out.  I have been working my dyepots hard experimenting toward red and…

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I am getting more interesting colours on silk thread (wrapped around the cards at left) than ever before.  My friends agree that the alpaca on the left, first through the dye bath, is red, then there is grey corriedale (second pass, same dye bath), more alpaca (third pass, still the same dyebath) and some still damp alpaca (fourth pass).  Three cheers for the potential to spin alpaca of many colours!

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