Although I long for gardening season with it's richness of plant materials my dye pots keep busy during the winter. And there are still many plants for winter dyeing. I recently did a pot with some of my winter blooming heather.
The spring and winter blooming heathers are all Erica species and the summer blooming heather is Calluna vulgaris. Calluna is based on the Greek kallunein meaning 'beautify, sweep clean' as heather was once commonly used to make besoms - traditional brooms made by tying twigs to a stouter pole.
I boiled up some prunings for several hours, let them sit overnight in the pot and strained them the next day to make the dyebath. I love the colour they gave.
Winter's also a good time for trying out dyes from plants from warmer climates. I tried some henna which is as beautiful for dyeing fibre and fabric as it is for dyeing the skin and hair.
I also dyed with lac which comes from scale insects in India and southeast Asia. They form colonies on the succulent twigs of host trees, sucking out the plant juices. They secrete a resin around them as a form of protection. As well as lac dye, the main products formed from their secretions are a shellac and a wax that are non-toxic and environmentally friendly. In fact, they're used in Aurvedic medicine as well as over 100 industries from makeup products to capsules for medications that have to pass through the stomach without being digested, fruit coatings as well as more common uses with leather and wood.
The pink ones are from an exhaust bath and the rest are all from the same medium strength bath. It always amazes me how different fibres and fabrics take the same dye so differently. I'm cautious about using tropical dyes as the sources of some dyes, such as brazilwood, are threatened with extinction due to the overharvesting of old trees. However, I feel happy using a renewable resource that produces an environmentally friendly non-toxic shellac and wax that can substitute for petrochemical ones.