About the only thing that thrives during heat waves.
(Adding this last picture to show the size.)
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!)
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Hibiscus Rose Mallow (Hibiscus spp.) on Wool, scoured but no pre-mordant or pre-Alum.
Far left, Hibiscus with a pinch of copper after-bath. Middle, dried Hibiscus flowers mashed (in the dye pot while simmering, before adding the wool) to yield a darker color. On the right wool and soy-silk simmered conventionally with dried Hibiscus. Other fibers – like silk – will probably get different results – but this is what I got dying wool.
Again, the wool samples were not pre-mordanted. Simmered, lowest stove setting, for about 3 hours, sat in the pot 2 days. I haven’t done a fade-test yet but much of my dyed wool ends up a boot sock, in a boot out of the sun, under a hot pot, on the floor, on a wall but not out in the sun so up to now fading hasn’t been a problem.
One well might ask why more yellow. Quite a few plants yield yellow so
chances are yellow is what you will get. For me, yellow is handy for later
overdying with Indigo or Madder. The small sampler rug (above)
wasn’t dyed with Hibiscus specifically but an example of what can be
done starting with mostly yellow, excluding the black wood.
Next, I’m trying to find local plants that don’t require strong chemical mordants. Like onion peel and Wood Sorrel, you can probably use this at home.
Copper after-bath on the far left could have been accomplished with an Indigo over-dye, otherwise the rest of the tests were done without mordanting (copper, tin, chrome, etc.) Different dye-times and mashing up the dye stuff yield different shades of yellow. I don’t mind using vinegar or amonia, but those two didn’t change the color much.
Lastly, Hibiscus is easily available in Los Angeles, southern California, and works dried or fresh. The shrubs are all around the city and I have a small plant at home so it’s easy to stock up. For a good laugh, picture me wandering around in the back of a Nordstrom’s parking lot with picking up dried Hibiscus.
Since I now know what I’m actually growing I’ve been reading up on Dyer’s Weld (Reseda luteola) – Ida Grae, etc. It can be used fresh or dried and I’ll probably harvest the tops as they bloom and dry them.
I put a yard stick in the picture for size context. Picture below is a 2nd year plant. I’d say it falls between my elbow and shoulder but since I’m behind the camera that doesn’t give anyone an idea of the height.
Not the most exotic sounding dye material but don’t underestimate the onions or the onion skin. For me it has been a reliable, versatile dye that I can use on both protein and plant fiber. So far I’ve dyed wool, cotton, and soy silk.
Above, pre-alumed wool dyed with onion skins. The green is indigo over-dyed in the same batch. The plant:fiber ratio was .5:1 but I believe that I could have used considerably less dye stuff. The onion skins and fiber had been simmered for an hour and left to soak over night. The next day the dye still wasn’t exhausted so I over-dyed some previously indigo-dyed wool.
Copper and Iron after-baths darkened the color but ended up with similar shades. The Ammonia after-bath brightened a bit.
Onion skins are easy to save up and store. When I am shopping produce I sometimes tidy up around the onion bin.
In some areas Fennel is considered a noxious and/or invasive weed. But for me, Fennel has always been a nice, well-behaved multi-use plant. It even smells good in the dye pot. (And I can identify it correctly : see post about the Woad that turned out to be Weld.)
Fennel has also become one of of my seasonal markers. Wood Sorrel runs through half of the year and as it dies off the Fennel starts up. And visa versa. So I am always stocked with yellow dye.
Quick note: Fennel by my experience works only well with protein fiber (i.e. wool), I’ve never successfully dyed plant fiber such as cotton. Wood Sorrel on the other hand dyes anything I’ve tried. The only exception has been corn fiber.
This is embarrassing. It’s what happens when you grow a plant that you have never actually observed from seed to dye pot. The Woad I thought I was growing is really Dyer’s Weld. Yellow not blue. More yellow. A really good, clear Lemon yellow but still more yellow.
Before it began to bloom it could have been either.
However, as it blossomed it became obvious that the plant I had was not what I thought it was. Checked every image I could find including the Druid Plant Oracle and I definitely was not growing Woad.
So I’ve got Weld, Dyer’s Weld. Nice looking plant. The bees seem to like it. Works on wool (protine fibers – so not cotton).
Although Eucalyptus is not native to Los Angeles there is quite a bit of it around town. In fact in some areas you will be brushing it off your car every day.
Using it as a dyestuff some people have been wildly unimpressed with my results but I like the color all the same, sometimes blended with with Fennel and lawn grass dyed wool.
I guess I should say that it’s possible to get nearly the same orange-rust color range with onion skins and less fuss. But if you should find youself with lots of Eucalyputs leaves, undyed wool and are wondering what to do with it…
wool: yes, I got light orange to dark rusty orange. Some people get red from Eucalyptus but I have not. I don’t know if it makes a difference where the plant is grown or not.
cotton and other fibers: don’t know I have only tried this with wool so far, but having seen Soy Silk sponge up any color I I’ve dropped it into I’m guessing somehting would work.
Links with information about using Eucalyptus as a dye:
What I tried was based on reading Ida Grae’s Nature’s Colors and the two articles I have links for above. Amounts of plant to fiber were anywhere from 4:1 to 16:1 for the darkest.
I used a mix of Silver Dollar (the small, round leaves) and the long thiner leaves. Some recipies suggest using Silver Dollar only. Leaves chopped smallish and soaked for 3–days. Brought slowly to boil and simmerd for 1 hour. (I read if you run up the heat to fast, it turns brown but I have not tested this out).
Pulled out the dye material (before any mordant, so I don’t have to dispose of contaminated dye garbage), added alum, cream-of-tartar, the alumed wool and simmered another hour. Let cool for about 24 hours – the next day after work. After this you can try any other mordants (iron, copper or tin) or afterbaths (Ammonia or Vinegar).
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.)
I’m not the most enthuastic housekeeper but have never minded dish washing. As a youngster I never minded dishes because no one else in the family wanted to do them and so I was pretty much left to my own devices when my hands were in a sink. I would keep a notebook on the window sill and scribble ideas as they came to me. Some 40+ years later I still find dishwashing – particularly with a window to look out – is oddly relaxing.
I also like a window in view where I’m weaving or painting.
This piece is really smaller then it might look here. These are being woven on my Mountain Loom table loom. (picture also, window behind.) It’s one of those 12” sampler looms which are nice for working out ideas.
The warp is wool and the weft if Bartlett yarns, 2 ply, black and while.
Some years ago I was lucky enough to take a workshop from Michael Rohde and later a HGA Learning Exchange (#27) that he evaluated. I’m revisiting the patters from that workshop. Boundweave, weft-face rug weaves. (See HGA magazine “Shuttle, Spindle & Dyepot”, Summer 2000, p.40–43 for LE#27.)