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.
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.
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 week I picked the first Oxalis of it’s – the Oxalis’ season. I don’t think that this really qualifies as a “season” but what I’ve observed locally is: Fennel blooms and continues more-or-less to late Spring to Fall and Oxalis blooms late in Fall and continues to Spring. (Glove on the hand because I am a total weather-wimp.)
And since I’m writing this on the (United States) Thanksgiving Day holiday, I will note that one can always be thankful for a consistant, reliable dye plant that dyes wool, cotton and probably things I haven’t tried yet. (And the bees like it too!)
Today we had the kind of weather that inspired my parents to pull up stakes from Ohio and move to California. It may start raining sometime tonight but for today it was quite lovely. Becides the cats and bees I heard then saw a humming bird in the Orange tree. Also a couple of ladybugs.
My cotton shrub (below) kept going all through what passes out here for winter and is currently surrronded by the Oxalis that may dye some of it.
This last rather poorly lit picture is the Charkha I use for spinning cotton. That, and a portable Akha-style spindle. I was able to take a class from Eileen Hallman (New World Textiles) and purchased a Charkha from her. (Good instructor, good class.)
My standard yellow dye plants are Fennel (for wool) and Oxalis (cotton, wool, soy silk).
The first Oxalis opened up a few days ago. Locally the Fennel produces through most through what would be our Summer months (Pacific, southwest USA), starts to dry and dies out around Autumn. Following that the Wood Sorrel/Oxalis starts up, runs rampant through the Winter into Spring and dies out towards summer when the Fennel starts up again.
This being southern California the seasons are hot and dry, and really hot and dry punctuated by a furious rain storm or two. In fact, left to itself I am guessing much this area would be more desert like. (In case one forgets this idea, having a car breakdown in the San Fernando Valley, in July, around high noon, is a heck of a wakeup call…) Most of the years I grew up here the weather was at least consistant with itself but lately has gotten incresingly volitile (and just plain wierd).
Otherwise, the cotton is still opening and some smaller (cotton) plants have been started for next year.
Dye plants work on their own time tables, ignoring (my) schedule, day job hours and other relivant interruptions which may be why I prefer using dry-ables. The Fennel seems to be going into its die-off cycle. Fortunately its one of those dye plants that seems to work just as well fresh or dried and I have enough stocked up for what passes as Winter in California. And, about the time that the Fennel is finished the Oxalis will probably be reappearing.
It would probably sound great to say I grow all my own dye plants but I certainly don’t – lack of space for starters. I probably have sufficient garden space to grow dye to cover sock toes. The Fennel (yellow dye), until I transplanted it into the yard, I used to chase around town ahead of the weed abatement people. The Oxalis (the other yellow) appeared on its own and refused to leave. Since both of these work well fresh or dry I can save and dry for the season and have enough to dye beyond the sock toes.
Otherwise I rely on things that are going to be tossed out – Onion peels, lawn grass and Eucalyptus leaves for example. I have grown Maddar but again its hard to grow enough for an extensive dye project so I buy that dried. I have to Woad plants going this year but again that probably toe coverage so the Woad and Indigo are also purchased dry.
My little overdye experiment – the Knitpicks sock blank – has some Oxalis (yard), Maddar and Indigo. This is also my first time knitting toe-up, two-at-once socks.
Lastly, this is the new wordpress version of the dye blog.