Friday, 1 August 2008

Garden bursting with dyes

This is the time of the year when I feel almost overwhelmed by the anount of dye in the garden. I have a sense of the dye garden exploding with colour. Dyers greenweed (genista tinctoria is bursting into flower, golden rod (solidago canadensis) is almost in full bloom, There is loads of yarrow ( achilleia miliefolium) and meadow sweet, the dyer's chamomile (anthemis tinctoria)is awash with golden flowers and the dyer knotweed polygonum inctoria and Chinese woad (isatis indogitica )in the new bed are doing really well. The colours are strong and vibrant too.

What is a poor dyer to do? Surprisingly enough during the year the yellows and greens are the colours I most often run out of, for example the green I made from overdying the yellow from dyers chamomile with indigo has already gone into making a bag , ( the one in the middle top). So this year, I thought I would dye a lot especially with the genista and with the golden rod as neither of these seem to give such a good colour after drying. I don't think that weld does either but it is such a strong dye I don't think we realise how much is lost. Sometime ago Kevin from the Online Guild of Weavers Spinners and Dyers generously sent me his method for making an extract from weld so I think I might try this. Then I found myself thinking maybe I would freeze some golden rod as our freezer is seriously underused. I wonder whether anyone has tried this I know Bettina freezes dyers chamomile and India in EcoColour says she freezes a lot so I might try that.

Leena of I can't seem to be able to work out how to put a name into the blog which you click on and it goes to the site so Iam having to do it the long way round and give the url) has been dyeing with polygonum tinctoria and has used it to dye wool, rather than the silk I used and got a lovely soft blue with a turquoise cast. I think she kneaded the leaves more thoroughly as she seemed to get more dye than I did. She also pointed me to the turkey red website which had an article on dyeing with the japanese polygonum which said that the plant was ready when the leaves showed blue spots so maybe some of mine had been picked a little early.


  1. I've just started reading your blog and, being new to dyeing, I'm finding it quite inspiring - thank you.

    To link a name to a URL in your blog, by the way, in edit mode, highlight the word you want to link to (eg 'Leena') and then click on the link icon (between 'Type Colour' and 'Justify Left' icons) - this opens up a box where you can either type in the URL or copy and paste it.

    Hope this helps.

  2. Hi Sue you are a star! Thanks. I think of myself as reasonably computer literate but I have only just worked out how to add links to other blogs:( so your comment help a lot. I am so glad you are enjoying the blog too. When I started my blog DH , being a prophet of doom,said just be tbe aware that the average readership of blogs is 1!

  3. Helen, tell DH that it all depends on the contents of the blog:) as long as it is interesting to read, you'll have more than just one reader!! and I agree, right now I could have 4 dyepots on the stove all day every day! luckily I have some dye plants growing in the wild too, and usually their flowering time is a little different from my garden plants, so that stretches the time limit a bit. the problem is that eventually I run out of space in the freezer:( so I have no choice but to keep going or let the plants go over without picking - which starts to annoy me as soon as the flowers are gone:)

  4. I was planning to pick quite a lot this week but almost never ending rain means that nothing is dry enough to pick ! grr! My Japanese pOlygonum is starting to flower at least one or two are. But all my indigo bearing stuff has to last till the end of August when Iam having a Dyeing the Blues workshop

  5. Helen, I am sure you have many readers! I find your blog one that I am always looking forward to read, and besides, I read also your older posts many times:)
    You are an inspiration to me and many times you have written something that I have been wondering, but thought that it was just me doing something wrong. Like now you wrote that weld dyes better when it is fresh and that goldenrod is like that, too. I have once dyed with dried goldenrod and the color wasn't so deep as I expected, and now you have the answer to that here! Do you think fermenting dried goldenrod would help? I find that with weld I get better colors if I let the dried plants ferment in just water for about 5 days, and with tansy it works too. Is this something to do with the dyestuffs they contain?

    There are no signs of flowers in my polygonums yet, this has been unusully cold and cloudy summer here:(

    By the way, I don't know why your last comment in my blog doesn't show. I could read it in my email, but the blog shows only 8 comments and I don't know how I can add more space for them there?
    It is too bad because it was interesting what you wrote about flavoids in japanese indigo, I have to read my Cardon more closely:)

  6. I have to add to what I just wrote about reading your blog, don't take any pressure about it.
    For instance for me this is a busy season (and I am sure it is the same for you) and there could be so many things to write about in my blog but no time (or energy) to write so I try to tell myself that it is better to write not so often and feel good about it, than to force myself to write something. If you write next time in September or whenever, I am happy to read your older posts in the meantime:)