January is when the Oxalis starts it’s annual invasion. As annoying as it can be – taking over the garden – it’s still my staple for yellow dye and a favorite with local bees. I let the bees have at it in the morning and pick after. By the time it starts dying off I’ll have a good supply of dried oxalis, enough for myself and to give away to other dyers.
About the Woad. I haven’t written much about Woad since there hasn’t been any for awhile. Woad is not a desert plant. (Pause for a moment of duh.) My area of southern California is what some may call “reclaimed desert”. Something you can forget until the car breaks down in the San Fernando Valley in July and there is your reminder.
Two years of drought wiped out whatever Woad I still had growing. But, I still have seeds from the last plant so I’m going to try again this year. Nothing of course can wipe out Oxalis. And the bees like it.
My other on-going project will be mordanting cotton following the method described in John Liles ‘Art and craft of natural dyeing”. Lots of scouring, soaking and then mordanting, more steeping, more soaking and then you get to the actual dying.
Ida Grae points out that most cooking herbs will produce yellows. If I can eat or use something as a medicinal I tend not to dye with it but the Rosemary here is so plentiful it’s worth trying. Same probably goes for Lavender but I haven’t tried that yet.
*Ida Grae / Nature’s Colors: Dyes from Plants, 1979.
This Weld plant popped up nearby so I put the bricks around it – my universal marker for this-is-not-really-a-weed-dont-pull-or-stomp-on. With any luck this one will have the tenacity to survive the current drought conditions.
I recently found a cone of white pearl cotton at a local thrift shop. The obvious thing of course was dye experiment. The usual oxalis and onion, woad overdye attempts were lighter than I’d like but sometimes that happens. (Noted the fiber weight and ratio for future attempts or avoidance.)
Then the incident with the Madder.
I’ve always been a sort of no-pastel zone when it comes to clothes or anything that involves color. In particular I dislike pink. So, imagine my surprise at finding a pot full of pink pearl cotton. I even tried longer soaking times – up to a week, adjusted the strength and still pink.
So I have pink yarn. Either it will be dunked in woad at some future or it will be a scarf for someone who does like the color.
Weld plants from June to July. Some Woad in the background. These seem to be surviving the drought weather under tree shade. Last year’s Weld and Woad and actually most of my herb garden didn’t survive the heat wave so this year I’m more focused and picking areas of the yard where they might survive.
For the record, mine are growing these in southern California, USA. Definitely not native to the area. The two pictured have started blooming and not (not in the picture) haven’t taken off yet. But even two plants can be good for dyeing since Weld is one of those wonderful plants where everything from areal parts – from the ground up is used.
I’ve turned out to be a rather rotten blogger. I have this idea of only writing where there is something appropriate and relevant and then somehow not getting back to it for a few months.
The plants last seen around September 14 have mostly survived. Woad in porch planters were eaten by something. The Woad in the yard took off though one Weld didn’t survive. Additionally I have some more seeds in flats that will hopefully take off.
[Three Weld plants in front, the Woad nearest the tree and another Weld behind.]
[One of the Weld plants.]
Due to drought conditions – I’m in southern California – there are watering restrictions. On my street odd numbered addresses have Mon, Wed, Fri and Sunday, before 9am and later in the evening for watering. For awhile now I’ve been using dish (washing) water on the dye plants and they seem to be doing ok along some shade from the tree.
My other yellow dye staple is Oxalis, aka the Weed-that-does-not-die. That one is of course did well for it’s seasonal appearance and keep a lot of bees happy while providing me with a good supply of yellow/orange dye.
Earlier this year I stared some Woad in a planter to see how it would do. So far it has survived the crazy weather and nibbling by local urban wildlife. Looks like it would be possible to grow this one in planters if no yard is available.
This area is the Weld and one Woad plant behind. And behind that is the dead lawn. Current drought conditions are my excuse for letting the lawn go dormant. (Nice word for letting it dry out.) I wouldn’t have a lawn at all but I’ve been outvoted. Since I can’t get rid of it I’m expanding the dye plants and medicinal herbs out over it a section at a time.