When I came home from our Guild's spin-in yesterday I found that a Good Fairy had left a smoke bush on my driveway. I guessed who the Good Fairy was - my friend Dorothy knows that a smoke bush is a bundler's Bliss. This morning I planted it and it now sits there snugly in its nest of straw.
Unfortunately this picture of horsetail is taken in my garden – in a bed which has been overrun with it. I have to admit, however, that this time of year it’s really quite pretty.
I cooked up a basket of horsetail - pulling it up where it’s invading the path. It’s one of those plants which have a desire for garden domination. I simmered the dyebath for several hours, let it sit overnight and then added my fibre and fabric. I held it just below the simmering point for several hours and then let it sit in the pot overnight.
A couple of days later, using the same bath, I did my first dyeing of local fleece. I have about 6 ounces of rovings from Olivia, a fine sheep who lives in my neighbourhood.
It was magical dyeing local fleece with something that grows in my own backyard (even if it was horsetail). And now I’m an addict, looking for my next hit of local fleece… I’m very involved with our Sunshine Coast Fibreshed, one of whose mandates is encouraging the production of quality local fleece.
Meanwhile in the garden, a couple of the woad plants a friend gave me last year are in full flower and I can see the seeds starting to form.
The madder plant another friend gave me has pushed through its straw mulch. It’s safe for a couple of years and then I’ll be after its roots.
Last spring I planted pokeberry seeds and they grew into small plants by the end of the summer. I wasn’t sure if they’d survived the winter as they were late poking up through the ground. But once they did they’ve been growing enthusiastically. I see stakes in their near future.
The other dayI emptied out the jars I showed in my May 7/15 blog. The frozen purple petunia flowers dyed the silk a lovely dusky purple. I still have to test the lightfastness but even if it fades in light I can always put it in books. I paid a visit to the nursery to pick up some more purple petunias for this year’s garden. While there, I found this amazing petunia (Mamba) with flowers like black velvet.
When I buy plants at the nursery I explain what the situation will be for them when they come home with me. They’ll be well weeded, watered, fed and protected from slugs. But they’ll be working plants. As soon as their flowers start to fade – it’s off with their heads…
Last week on my morning walk I was admiring the beautiful bright yellow dandelions when I suddenly thought - dandelion flower dyeing! I gathered two bursting pockets full. A couple of neighbours were very generous in inviting me to pick all the dandelions I wanted from their lawns!
In her book Craft of the Dyer, Karen Leigh Casselman advises that to keep the bright clear yellow colour from fresh yellow flowers (instead of getting a golden or bronze) limit the total processing of the flowers and fibre to less than 45 minutes and keep the heat below 190F/88C. I did this but the colour was paler than I wanted so I processed it longer. The wool dyed to a beautiful golden yellow and the silk and cotton to a lovely pale yellow - except for the silk velvet which dyed a deep bright yellow. I then took some of the wool and silk and overdyed them with indigo.
Harvested from the garden for lunch - chives, Good King Henry and 'broccoli' spears from over-wintered kale. Yum yum!
Thanks to taking a class with Shibori Girl I finally got an indigo vat going. Got to love indigo! While you have to set up and maintain the vat, once you have it going there's no mordanting, no heating. Just dip and dye. I tried a variety of fabrics and fibres along with some feathers and a wood bead. The green and gold rovings are onion skin dyed rovings over-dyed with indigo.
As the warm sunny days of summer give way to the cool, rainy weather of autumn here on the beautiful Sunshine Coast of British Columbia, the mid-summer flowers begin to wind down. Now's the time to do the last dyeings with them and dye with the late summer and early fall flowers.
Slugs love marigolds. We have slugs. Many slugs. Giant slugs. If I plant marigolds in the garden beds the slugs quickly strip them down to the thick central stem. So after a deer jumped over the fence and ate the early spinach I'd planted in garbage pails I planted marigolds in this place where I could better protect them. They've been great for dyeing all summer.
The Rudbeckia are beautiful at the end of summer and well into the fall.
A steam bath of bundles of silk with marigolds and Rudbeckia, mordanted with alum and with some copper sulphate over part of the bundles. When I'm steaming something strong smelling like marigolds or that might be toxic I do it on a hot plate on the deck.
Now the hard part! At least with steaming I usually only let them sit overnight before I open them up.