Dyeing with Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

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I have lots of Rosemary. Even sharing it, making incense and medicinals there’s lots left over. At some point it does have to be trimmed back so I tried it out as a dye plant.

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The bottom row is what I started out with, my standard Bartlett yarn ‘natural white’, light gray, medium and dark gray. Cotton was unsuccessful.

For the dye stuff, starting with Ida Grae’s suggestions* I used fresh Rosemary 1×1 and 3×1. Simmered the Rosemary for an hour and let it cool over night.

Here are a couple of sites that describe Rosemary as a dye.

Naturally Dyeing: <http://naturallydyeing.blogspot.com/2011/05/rosmarinus-officinalis.html>

Dyeing Fabric with Culinary Herbs: <http://www.motherearthliving.com/garden-projects/culinary-herb-goes-dye-crazy.aspx>

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.

 

June-July Weld Plants

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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.

More about Weld:  <http://www.wildcolours.co.uk/html/weld.html> from Wild Colors in the UK.  Good pictures and info about growing, harvesting and dyeing.

Lastly the ubiquitious Wikipedia:  <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reseda_luteola>

Why I Don’t Like the Word “Natural”

From the LA Times, “Why ‘Natural’ Doesn’t Mean Anything Anymore

“Natural” and the definitions of that word have been on my mind lately. I’m taking my first, bumbling steps at teaching a dye plant workshop and while my description would be “vegetable dyes” everyone seems to be calling it “natural dyes”.  And yes, this does involve working with plant based dye materials that occur in nature, I find the term “natural” kind of misleading or at least confusing.

“Natural dyes” seems to imply methods that are safer, non-polluting, better for the environment, etc. As the kids say, Not. Or at least not necessarily. From what I’ve read on the subject it appears that dye work was often a pretty nasty, polluting industry. Supposedly in time of Elizabeth I (England) the dyers had to work some specified distance from town because of the stench. Remember the stale urine for indigo?

Chemical additives – mordants, however “natural” in origin were often poisonous for the dyers and polluted water sources that material was dumped into. Which is not to say one can’t use mordants safely but with the same safety practices and precautions one would use with synthetic dyes.

Aren’t natural dyes safer than synthetic dyes?: Paula E. Burch, Ph.D. ( Her All About Hand Dyeing is an excellent dye resource.)  In this (web) article Burch points out that “..Some natural dyes are almost perfectly safe; others are quite toxic. Some synthetic dyes are safe even to eat; others are too toxic to bring into your home. ”  Know what you are using and how to use it safely.  Respect your materials.

Also see: Natural vs synthetic: from Dharma Trading Co.

Although I’d like think I know how to handle mordants safely, I do work at home, in my kitchen and don’t live alone (other people, animals) so I prefer not to use anything stronger than Alum (potassium aluminum sulfate) and Tartar. (I used to use Copper and Iron but phased that out a few years ago.)
whiteToGray.jpg  yarn02.jpgWith wool I manage color range by using white, lite, medium and dark sheep gray from Bartlett Yarns. The only other fiber I work with is cotton and I’m trying out using white, brown and green cotton for the range but that is still in the we’ll-see phase.

Mostly New Woad

I haven’t posted in a while.  Starting new plants and trying to regrow what I lost in the last heat wave.

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Even though my Woad plants curled up and died  there were seeds from that last batch.


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I’ve been moving them a few at a time into the yard.

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This one (above) is the growing-Woad-in-a-planter experiment. Since the roots seemed so shallow it seemed possible that it might thrive in planter.

Woad Seeds, dye pots and more or less interesting messes


I’m still collecting Woad seeds. When the one plant that had started going to seed took off I wrapped it in a tomato cage and will continue collecting seeds as long as they appear. Also on the to-do list is to start sending out seed packets to various fellow-dyers.

  

My idea of an enjoyable weekend: dyed more yarn, Woad and Onion peel pots and made a batch of Plantine and Lavender salve.

Spring, Woad and Weld: going to seed


Jack, through the back screen door. The cats are always looking for the door to spring.

Garden around late January, early February.

Still looks a bit bare.  Shortly after this picture was taken the Weld took off.

Weld
I haven’t written much about using Weld. From: A Dyer’s Manual / Jill Goodwin (ISBN 0-7207-1327-7)
“The whole plant above ground may be chopped and simmered fresh, or carefully dried for use during the winter. There is little difference in the depth of yellow color from fresh or dried plants but the range of greens is greater from freshly cut leaves and stems.” (p.63)

 
[Weld plants, pictures taken only a couple of weeks apart. ]
Goodwin also mentions that the the plants grow about 3ft before flowering.

And the Woad

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