Some years ago, I bought India Flint’s little book Stuff, Steep and Store. I stuffed a lot of jars with all manner of small quantities of dyestuffs, and set them to steep. Some have been out of doors with their cardboard labels tied on with woad dyed wool, or with string made of leaves.
Some are still sitting on my bookshelves patiently waiting. Recently I opened several of these jars and washed off the contents.
And here are the results.
It’s a bit sad that this thread dyed with weld was the entirety of my weld crop! I came out one day and found that it had fainted. Some critter or another had severed it below ground.
On the other hand, the colour from the black hollyhock flowers is stupendous. I will certainly save them again this summer for a future jar of dye. This method is fantastic for small quantities of plant material. But I must admit I was interested so long after the fact to see how risk averse I’d been in setting up all these jars of dye and yet dyeing so little fibre. Maybe next time I could be just a little bolder…
I went out to help with the local organic food co-op recently and came home with walnuts from the local food forest produce swap, with the nuts soon ready for eating and the hulls ready for dyeing:
In the bucket, ready for their three week soak/fermentation:
Post soaking and ready for the heat:
With the application of heat, the dye bath grew darker still. So in went my remaining suffolk fleece. It was with deep relief that I assessed the (acceptable though not delectable) smell of the dye bath. It was a walnut dye bath that almost had me excommunicated from my Guild for cooking it up in the dye room when the Little Glory Gallery was open. Ahem!
Here is weld growing in the vegie patch:
One of my plants wilted and fell over for no obvious reason, so I cut it out and set it to dry. I wondered if something has nibbled on its roots from below ground. Some days later I went out and found that the rest of the plant had died. This time it is obvious that the main root has been chewed on or rotted away. Curious. I followed Jenny Dean’s instructions (more or less…) and due to lack of time, left the dye bath to sit for some days.
Mum saved me her purple fountain grass–a whole wheelbarrow load. I saw a post on Ravelry where a lovely green came from this plant just about when she was planning to cut hers back. This was exciting! For me, however–it gave only a fawn colour. Sadly!
Here is the walnut dye on the left and the fountain grass on the right. It is a little more yellow-brown in life, but nothing exciting. It went into the walnut exhaust.
I now have two shades of brown Suffolk and some weld-yellow crossbred fleece ready to join a future colour knitting project. May the rinsing begin!
Summer is a brutal time here in South Australia, and as I was writing, we had just had a record breaking heat wave where we were up over 40C for four days. In my case, however–not facing bushfire, and I feel for those who have and who will. People have already died and summer is young.
I took some photos before the heat wave… Hollyhocks, whose flowers have been going into the freezer as they fall.
This year’s woad looking splendidly leafy.
Last year’s woad flowering and seeding for all it’s worth.
Our very own E Scoparia. Last year, skeletonising caterpillars left just the veins of every single leaf in a lightning fast attack, but it has come back.
Weld in flower (with rhubarb beyond).
Japanese indigo seedlings, now blessedly in the ground.
Cotinus looking like it will make it.
The madder looking the worse for wear. In Spring it was more like this…
And the pansies, may they rest in peace (they didn’t make it through the heat wave), which have given a splendid collection of tired old flowers to the freezer.
There is more… and I have been roaming the neighbourhood collecting bark and fallen hibiscus flowers and considering the other options too…
It’s a mighty busy time of year in my day job, which is why it has been quiet here at the blog. That, and a series of lovely house guests. Those present in the flesh trump the online world on an average evening at our place! However, life has been busy at home too. Propagating and planting is going all out so long as the serious heat holds off. I even have a few Japanese Indigo seedlings, though this morning some of them had been chewed in the night. There is a period in summer here where planting anything seems merely unkind and doomed to failure, but we’re not there yet. I have been germinating and planting out, and there has been guerilla gardening too… but I digress.
A few weeks ago, I had some surprise purchases at the annual Herb Society fair. I cycled up there with friends who had brought a picnic and we came home laden with plants and seeds… it was a lovely day. I have been to the fair many times looking for dye plants and failing to find them. One year I succeeded in buying madder, which was very exciting. This year, though, I bought woad! Who knows what will come of it, but I have two plants and they are thriving in the vegie beds so far. I had managed to buy seed but have never grown even one seedling.
Then there was weld! I decided to bring it home in spite of all the other sources of vegetable yellow. we’ll see where that leads, too. And finally, this rather spectacular form of sorrel. Nothing to do with dye that I know of, but it does promise some pleasurable and spectacular summer eating…