22 November 2011

Japanese maple

Yes, I love everything japanese these days! I haven't got this beautiful tree in my garden, but had the luck to pass by a couple of trees which had made a thick, soft, ruby, leafy layer on a pavement. So I had to lie down in it, being total weird and an embarrassment to my daughter. - Well, actually I didn't really lie down - I grabbed a bag and stuffed it with incredibly glowing-red leaves. And stayed up half the night to wrap some of them in different kinds of fabric I had laying around.

cotton velours ...

 silk ...

cotton ...

wool ...

silk noil ...


silk ...

left: wool, right: silk ...

I didn't use any additives, just wanted to see how different kinds of fibres would react to the leaves. Cotton turned out in cool green, brown and yellow shades. Wool warmer yellow, rust, peach and pink. And silk pink/brownish pink/peach-yellow-purple. Interesting.

I like to pin the fabrics to the walls to see how they look together. In the last photo there's an eucalypt experiment in the middle. I've started stitching something with some of the fabrics - will show you when finished.

20 November 2011

Eco print goes goth ...

 ... or at least I think this dress turned out kind of romantic goth. After too much thinking about plans, plants and methodes I resolutely took a break from my brain, went out and picked up some windfallen oak and mirabelle leaves and some wild rose leaves. Because that is what I have got outside my door.

12 November 2011

I Got the Blues

... growing in my garden! I'm beyond thrilled - because it's hard to get the blues. Natural dye-wise, that is. But I got it, and am so proud!

 I know it sounds silly being proud - but blue just wasn't a part of my natural dye world for more than ten years. And now I've grown blue - in my own garden - organically grown.

Cutting and filling this basket with Polygonum tinctorium from my own garden (not the 'real' indigo, it's also known as Japanese Indigo) - filled me with an exitement which can only be compared with the exitement I felt as a child before yule. And it smells so good too!

How to dye with Polygonum tinctorium:
I trimmed off the leaves and put them in the food processor with some cold water. Let it soak for half an hour with some vinegar added to the solution, then strained the liquid through a silk scarf and squeezed the pulp thoroughly. Added some more cold water and a bit of vinegar to the pulp, same procedure as before. Then the wetted yarn and sik scarfs were added to the dye bath. I let it soak for an hour, stirring occasionally. Squeezed it and let it hang to dry. It was wonderful to see the blues develop - slowly before my eyes.

 After 1. dye bath ...

The silk scarf on the top and in the bottom is dyed with only Polygonum tinctorium. Number two from the top is the one used to strain and squeeze the liquid. It's a very strong turquoise. Number three and four is over dyed, ivy and birch leaves, I believe.

I really recommend trying to dye with this plant! It was easy to grow, the seeds sprouted right away (sowed in pots inside) - and I didn't do anything but planting them in a mostly sunny spot with lots of manure. We had a pretty cold, wet summer which they apparently liked.

The dyeing process was easy and fun. No boiling, chemicals or synthetic additives. Organically grown leaves, cold water and vinegar, that's all. And no stress or rushing, I baked a cake and made apple butter while dyeing.

I had to dig up and bring a couple of plants indoors, hoping they will make seeds for sowing next year. Fingers crossed!


I 'discovered' this felted wool anorak in my wardrobe, where it has been - practically unused - for ...well, about ten years. (Yrk, ten years??)
Even though I love the colour of natural, undyed wool it doesn't really look that good on me. Especially not the almost white wool from merino sheep. Why I've never thought of dyeing it before is beyond me - but I found myself fortuitously pulling it out of my closet - while - incidentally - being in possession of some eucalypt leaves. They don't normally grow in these parts of the world, but I've been wanting to try them out for a while now. And I'm glad I did!

And happy Autumn, by the way!

24 x eco dye

Recently, I had an eco dye session with 24 1. graders! - 50% chaos - 50% fun - and here is the result:

I brought some leaves and flowers, and the children went out gathering some too. I made a great mistake, though. I brought some shredded madder root in a bag - and told them it was Magic Dust. Thinking,  that a tiny sprinkle could give an interesting effect. Ha, ha, it surely did - those 6-7 year old little ones quite boldly poured the Magic Dust all over (a lot of Magic Dust must surely be better than just a little, right), resulting in a kind of dramatic effect. Could that be dragon blood?

Still, they had lots of fun, learned a bit about natural dyeing - and there are some really fine looking pieces too.

 (The blue coloured leaf print above is Cotinus coggygria (parykbusk). Usually it gives some kind of purple colour, but combined with madder it seems to be more turquoise).

I pre-mordated the silk in a little bit of alum and cream of tartar (vinsten). Leaves, flowers et.c. was placed (with more or less care) upon the fabric. The fabric was then rolled tightly around a stick and secured with cotton yarn. Boiled in the school yard in an enamel pot on a bonfire for about an hour. Opened after two days (because longer is impossible to wait for small people). We're going to make table runners, wall hangings and perhaps an advent calender with the fabric - combined with some solid coloured natural dyed silk fabric - no madder!


Strolling in my garden and in our small woods while the sun is setting, trying to ignore weeds needing to be removed and toys that ought to be put in their proper place. Enjoying the golden glow from the low sun beams and the way it makes everything look enchanted. Flowers and leaves seem to radiate with an inner light in these short moments.

 Gathering windfalls and picking a couple of flowers ...

Trying to capture a bit of their beauty to keep ...

Eco colour - now with kids

I'm a bit obsessed with mending, and I try not to discard clothes or fabric - (well, anything at all) that can be of some use. When it comes to childrens clothes, I feel the necessity for re-using the strongest. Children grow up so fast, and are in need of new clothes quite often. They wear out their clothes by crawling, climbing and playing (or I certainly hope they do). And some parents are quite occupied by childrens fashion and consequently replace their chidrens wardrobe regularly. The latter seems to be quite prevalent in these parts of the world. So much fabric - so little used. Let's use it all up, shall we?

Well, all that mending and other initiativs to re-use their clothes may just not be something children take notice of, unless they're actually involved in doing so. And I feel the importance of not only living sustainable (or trying my best to) - but also encourage my children to understand the concepts of sustainability. Not by telling them, but by simply doing it.

We went for a walk in an nearby area, formerly gravel pits and now an recreational area not being cultivated or interfered with in any way. Everything growing there has come up from seeds waiting in the soil for years.

We picked and gathered what we felt like, some windfallen leaves and twigs from the ground, and also gently picked some flowers and small twigs from bushes.

We had some not so good looking woolen underwear that needed refreshment. I soaked them in (cold) water added a little bit of Alum for a couple of days. Rinsed and squeezed them - and now they were ready to adorn with our findings. I didn't take pictures, but the children were free to do as they pleased, placing leaves, flowers and some berries on the fabric where they wanted to. As was I.
When we were satisfied with our work, we rolled up the under shirts tightly and secured the bundles with some string.

A couple of days before a kind neigbour allowed us to pick some twigs of their Berberis - (vulgaris, I think). Quite a pricking sort of schrub. Twigs and leaves had been soaking for a day and then simmered an hour or so before leaving it for another day to get all the potential dye stuff from the leaves. Then we put our bundles in this »soup«, put it over the heat and let it simmer for an hour. The most challenging part was to let the bundles stay in the pot to the following day - but we managed!

I think the result is lovely, the kids had fun and we're going to do this a lot more.

Eco colour

I recently bought this book - by India Flint - as a birthday present for myself.  After more than ten years of increasing devotion and love for natural dyeing I finally found a book in which a deep respect, consideration and responsibility for Mother Earth goes hand in hand with thoroughness, knowledge, ingenuity, and a talent for storytelling. She has a wonderful sense of beauty, and the ability to create fabrics and clothes that are both rustic and magical in their beauty.
I am in awe, and deeply inspired by this talented woman!

 This is some of my initial experiments dyed on wool and silk fabrics.

 Since my children were babes I've been saving their woolen stockings (or is it called tights/leggins) and underwear. I have a hard time throwing anything away, and even more so things that has been such a comfort and joy and kept my babes snug and protected. So I cut up (the remnants of) their discarded (read: several times mended and worn to pieces) clothes and drop the little pieces in a dye bath once in a while. Someday I hope to make a quilt. I would like to have a quilt made from fabric that has sucked up some of the softness and warmth of my babies skin to comfort me when I get old.

Re-using has - for my part - entered a new era. Here is my first try with Indias method, and I'm so happy with the result. My youngest had outgrown this silk cap and wool/silk undershirt. Too good for cutting up, so I bundled it with some Acer pseudoplatanus (da: ahorn) leaves and seed pods. The cap is dyed with leaves of Solidago canadensis - goldenrod (da: gyldenris). A happy, bright yellow.

After some eco dyeing it is suitable for a little fairy creature of some sort.

I'm so happy to have found a kindred spirit through a book, as well as  new inspiration for natural dyeing in many years to come!