Summer is such a busy time of year for me with dyeing and caring for my large garden. Almost every day I have at least one dyepot or steamer on the hotplate on my deck. Bundles are ongoing.
On the left is a bundle with geraniums (which give the pink colour which may or may not wash out), pansies, yellow marigolds and osteospermum. On the right is Herb Robert. Top middle is pink hollyhocks; left middle Echinacea; long middle bundle is purple hollyhocks. The hard part is leaving them for several days before I open them! Then I let them sit for several weeks before I wash them.
I’ve been investigating the mysteries of Rudbeckia. I started off with some Cherry Brandy Rudbeckia.
The dyebath was a bright burgundy red and the wool came out like this! (The increasingly pale colours are from exhausting the bath).
I noticed that as I exhausted the bath the colour wasn’t just becoming paler; it was also becoming less gray. I thought of my experience last summer when a friend gave me some flowers and I added vinegar to the dyebath. The wool came out flat grey. I wondered now whether the green component of the dye binds with the fibre in a bath of any pH and the red binds only in an acidic bath. If both components bind, as they would in an acidic bath, then the wool would be grey. I thought that I’d probably exhausted a good part of the green component so I added vinegar to make the bath acidic. And I was excited to get this pinky beige.
Next I dyed with yellow Rudbeckias or Black-eyed Susans.
The dyebath again was red but a darker more browny red than the Cherry Brandy. And this is what I got. The beige wool on the left and the pinkish silk next to it were the first day’s dyeing and the rest of the beige silk was the second day’s dyeing. I don’t know whether this was because the red component of the dye ran out or because the dyebath was older (I’ve sometimes found that with other plants).
This year I grew Japanese indigo for the first time. My plants, grown in garbage pails to help protect them from rampaging slugs, are humungous. Rather belatedly I read the instructions that I should have done a mid-summer picking to keep them down to size and let them branch out for subsequent dyeings.
I was excited to do my first dyeing with my own home-grown Japanese indigo. I followed the instructions using Spectralite (I have thiourea dioxide for my pre-reduced Indian indigo vat) that are outlined in Rebecca Burgess’s ‘Harvesting Color’ and Rita Buchanan’s ‘A Dyer’s Garden’. I was delighted with my beautiful blues (the paler ones look whitish in the photo).
And something very exciting today. A friend gave me a planter of madder (top) and one of Lady’s bedstraw, neither of which I’ve grown before. I’ll plant these in beds where they can spread. The roots of the bedstraw can be harvested in late fall of next year. In two years I’ll have a madder party and we can all dig, clean and dye with madder grown on the Sunshine Coast!