03 February 2015

going to seed - or do you want to grow indigo?

It seems this blog is going to seed, in more than one way.
Lets make a new starting point, and lets start by offering some Japanese Indigo seeds!

I won't charge anything for the seeds, but I like to trade, so if you do too, that could be fun. Anyway, I have plenty, more than I could ever grow myself - though not an infinite amount.

There's no end to the joy though, playing around with leaves, yarn, wool, clothes, baskets etc.

 So, if you'd like to try out growing these lush green wonders yourself, leave me a note!

10 September 2014

That time of year again

... where the japanese indigo is ready for harvesting. Maybe it has been for some time now, but since it needs my hands for working the magic, it had to wait for me to make time. This is what the patch looked like the 21th of July. Until then we had a dry spell, after the rain came they've grown a lot!

I've harvested 6 kg of leaves, which have been standing in jars and buckets outside until today. Too cold, though, for things to happen properly. I've moved it all inside now, and lit up the mass oven so they can get some warmth standing on the bench of the mass oven. Hopefully friday it'll be ready for dyeing.

 Ahh! Doesn't it look gorgeous?

I have a huge amount of plants, I won't be able to use them all. I hadn't the heart to throw away all those lovely seedlings in the spring. I'll gladly share my seeds again this year - when they're ripe!

There have been some eco printing going on this summer, some of it went horribly wrong. Note to self: NEVER use cochenille when you do not like it - even in order to try to make other people happy. I do NOT like cochenille pink in my prints or on my clothes.

I do like this new coreopsis, though. It's called Coreopsis Penny, and is very pretty just as it is - but it  also has splendid possibilities for printing.

26 May 2014

The Nordic Pink

One of the exiting things about natural dyeing for me, is to find out more about the 'Nordic Colour Spectrum'. Or what the colour wheel would look like, dyed only with plants (including moss, lichen and mushrooms) found right here. I think the nordic equivalent to cochineal must be slÄenlav - Evernia prunastri - or oak moss. I found some windfalls in february, which have been soaking on the windowsill in a jar (water/household ammonia solution) since. A couple of weeks ago I transfered some of the now ruby red water to a jar, along with some wool yarn). Local sheep, local spun yarn and local dyestuff - Nordic Pink! Isn't it funny, how differently the different kinds of yarn turned out. Another thing I love about wool; full of surprises!

Do you have a favourite local plant, producing pink (or something similar)?

06 April 2014

longing for leaves

In the Scandinavian part of the world, there really aren't many plants for the dyeing pot during the long winter months. Dried and frozen, of course, but I'm not much into that. Besides blackberry leaves (as I mentioned in the previous post),  there's bark and cones and different peels and skins.

Red onion skin (no mordant) on wool, silk and cotton

Shibori attempt on old silk skirt - dipped in oak bark & rust water

oak bark (grey), spruce cone (left) and avocado skin (right) - no mordants

 Different kinds of bark (cherry, oak, elm), spruce cones & onion skin
on cotton (crochet) yarn

 Cherry bark soaking - aluminium pot & solar dye (last summer)

Some of the yarn I dyed last summer. The greens are black hollyhock, the reddish are curly dock roots and chestnut peels, yellows different sorts of bark & flowers.

Actually, waiting for leaves to emerge is perfectly all right - at some point a creative human being must do something with all that wool and dyed yarn. Yarn spun with wool from Vega the Bunny mixed with some lamb wool. The yellow comes from dyer's chamomille flowers.

20 March 2014

tasmanian devil & easter socks

I had a bit of luck rummaging the local secondhand store; a tasmanian wool cardigan, never worn, just a tiny hole that needed mending. Gathering dyeing material in February isn't exactly the most thrilling experience, but using what is a hand (seeing the potential where you think there is none) is fun. Blackberry leaves were still plentiful, and I had some dusty smoke bush twigs forgotten in a corner of the scullery. I also found a rhubarb stalk with seeds - and a quick sweep of the floor in the barn, where Nissen slept during Yule, provided me with some dried spruce needles (in company with some dust bunnies and whatnot). I'm not particular, so I used it all.

Easter socks: placed red onion skins in the socks, rolled them up and dumped them in a jar with some avocado skin and chopped up pit, a spoonful of ash from the mass oven, covered with water and placed in a windowsill for a few weeks. Looking a bit like easter eggs. I shall dance in them if I'm invited to a grand easter party!

19 March 2014

fermenting indigo the natural way

For many years, I was happy and content dyeing with plants found practically under my feet. Sometimes, when studying dusty old dyeing books, I saw intimidating indigo recipes, which required purchase and use of chemicals I couldn't pronounce, and even less understand the effects and consequences of. So I didn't make blues, even though it's a favourite colour of mine. But didn't care that much, really, there's a big world of colours, besides blue.

There's a time for everything. The blues started growing in my own garden, and then I just had to go with the flow. A new world  opened up to me through the japanese indigo, and now I've even begun flirting with the 'real thing'. There are - and has been, for generations and generations - ways of fermenting indigo, that are not harmful to the environment. It's like fermenting food, just a tad more smelly

Above is a vat I started approximately 2 weeks ago, and since then it has come alive and developed a copper film on top of the vat, standing on the warm bench of our mass oven. The recipe is from here; and it goes as follows:

· 50 grams of finely ground indigo

· 28 grams finely ground madder root

· 28 grams regular old wheat bran (I made it by milling and sifting some grain of wheat)

· 170 grams washing soda

After mixing the ingredients and placing the bucket (with lid) a warm place, all you have to do is gently stirring once a day.
Some of the initial testings - oh, the possibilities, I'm so looking forward to play with this ...

A simple ami shawl and hat (modified with a crochet rim) made with homegrown
 japanese indigo.

30 January 2014

another way of sowing seeds

Some of the best natural dye students are under the age of five. Seriously; how many grown up students jump up and down and hug you, when you tell them it's time to unwrap a bundle? I'm so delighted with their pure joy and exitement - collecting leaves and flowers become an adventure, there's no hesitation when designing - they know exactly what they want to do and where to place what, having no clue at all what they're doing (I'm learning something here). The exited, yet ceremonious way they unwrap the bundles - and the unabashed pride and pleasure with the result. And they have no problem wearing their natural dyed underwear on the outside - and really, why shouldn't they?

My small 'students' already know a lot about plants; edible as well as dyeable. Quite a lot more, that many a modern grown up, I dare say. And they are not afraid to move one step ahead by themselves, trying out new things. The grey trousers above was a result of the imagination of a 4 year old. He was cutting down an offset from a stump, wanting to carve some hooks from it - when he got the idea to use the bark for dyeing (clever little guy!). Naturally we tried it - and got a pretty grey with a brown tinge (with a dip in rusty nail soup to deepen the colour). But what's even more important than the lovely things they make, are the seeds growing inside them: seeds of love and respect for Nature. Seeds, that are nurtured by getting to know her better, by learning about the gifts she offers, and by learning to appreciate her beauty. That's also what natural dyeing is all about for me; seeds of love!