Saturday, April 11, 2009
I've only been seriously experimenting with natural dyes for one year, so I haven't yet had a chance to grow too many of my own plants. One dye plant I do have in the garden that I'm really digging, is woad. Last spring some seeds were gifted to me; I got them started, and found space at the end of the veggie plot to tuck in about 15 plants. I did two harvests, the first giving me 6 1/2 lbs. of leaves, and the second 2 1/2 lbs. That was plenty of material to play around with and get to know Woad a bit. I left the plants to overwinter, hoping to get some seed this year. Well, I was amazed at how these little plants fared during our "coldest-ever-winter"! They stayed green and perky all winter, when all around, the ground was covered with frozen ice for weeks on end; all the winter kales died, our three eucalyptus trees died, and, oh, so much other damage to plants. And here's Woad, ready to meet the new year without so much as a withered leaf. Seeing that the leaves are moving towards an upright position, getting ready to send up that flower stalk, I cut all the leaves except for two plants, which will flower and give me seed for next year. Not having time to fiddle with doing a blue dye bath, I merely boiled up the leaves, added alum-mordanted roving, and simmered for 45 minutes. You can see the lovely red of the liquid; hard to believe that color comes from those green leaves! The wool comes out a salmony-tan color. It will be interesting to over-dye some of it. That nice yellow is from fresh, unopened, spring catkins of birch and alder trees. They smell heavenly when being boiled; like balsam incense. This is a photo of one of our gardens. The woad is at the far end (you can't really see it). The walking onions are coming up in the foreground; the straw-mulched area has shallots and garlic, and on the right are peas (not up yet). I'll leave you with a picture of something from the studio. Happy pollinating!