Eucalyptus amplifolia

The only specimen of E. amplifolia (ssp. amplifolia) I could find was a rather tall tree with branches high up and all fresh leaves out of reach. There were however plenty of dead leaves on the ground that hadn’t started to rot, so I scooped these up and went home with a bag full.

I simmered the leaves for a while, with a E amplifolia1small skein (a tie, really) of commercial yarn thrown in (see centre of ball) – this came out a deep brown which was what I had been aiming for after consulting a couple of sources. The next day I added a full skein of handspun, plus two other ties of the commercial, simmered them for well over an hour and waited for the same brown.

As you can see, the handspun came out an uninspiring shade of mustard (I’ve since overdyed it with E. sideroxylon). The two ties, which have gone walkabout, came out two different shades of brick red. Conclusion? That the handspun, although carefully scoured, hadn’t been processed nearly aE amplifolia2s much as the commercial and therefore wasn’t as receptive (porous?). It was also thinner, and translucent.

More recently I repeated the experiment with a second collection of un-rotted leaves of the same tree. The handspun came out of the dyepot in two different shades of honey brown, while the commercial was darker honey, but nowhere near as dark as the first experiment. Maybe the leaves were more rotten than I thought?

I also experimented (some time between the two other lots) with no-/mordant and/or modifier to see if there was much difference.E amplifolia3 Barely noticeable, so not one to repeat when contrast is called for.

There were a couple of small branches on the ground with fresh leaves that the parrots had been at, but not really enough to dye a skein with. Might try some leaf prints with these.


Dahlia leaves

feuilles de dahlia, Dahlienblätter, hojas de dalia, duilleoga dáilia

My experiment with tree dahlia leaves last year didn’t do well, producing no colour at all, but I decided to try again with the bedding dahlias. They were going into dormancy, so left enough leaves on each plant to provide the final feedahlia leavesd for the tubers.

The results were some interesting pastel green and yellow pastel hues which I usually term “’50’s colours” after childhood memories of old pots of paint in discontinued shades and bedclothes/clothes/tablecloths (I did know the difference, believe me, and used them all for the correct purpose, except when playing Batman) that maybe used to be darker or perhaps just weren’t as gaudy as in the 60’s/70’s.

Woad seeds

Isatis tinctoria, guède, Waid, isatide, glaisin

Although I had to use half my harvest of woad seeds (40g is a lot of seeds), I still have plenty to sow for next season’s leaf harvest, with some of the previous season’s self-sown plants to provide the next lot of seeds. I didn’t get around to harvesting any leaves this summer, but doggie seems to like using them as an outdoor bed. She’s quite good at nudging out the stakes and bailer twine barriers that were supposed to keep her and the birds off.

Back to the seeds in question. I simmered them for about 45 minutes, strained the liquor and added the yarn for another 45 minutes’ simmering. The mordants and modifiers all produced greener shades, with onlwoad seedsy the unmordanted/unmodified yarn giving a pinky-brown.

Looking at the three on the right, my mind’s going back to episodes of Outlander, although if I do get around to weaving a plaid, I might forgo the waulking with a bucket of wee (says he who pokes his bare hand into the compost heap to see how it’s doing).


Houttynia cordata

chameleon plant, plante caméléon, chinesischer Eidechsenschwanz, lus chameleon

After hearing the salesperson in a Sussex nursery talk about an orange-scented plant yonks ago, mater et filius, aka the two family plant-freaks, waited for the customers in front to put it down before we sniffed and bought. The Vietnamese say this plant smells of fish, but all I can smell is Nell Gwyn’s hands after a packed-out sitting in Drury Lane.

houttynia1As it survives English winters, South Australian summers and everything the tropics has to offer, I’d say it’s pretty easy to grow and tolerant of most climates.

I recently saw this plant mentioned on a website about traditional carpet dyes (and can’t for the life of me find where I bookmarked it), and so pulled up several handfulls – it’s had a good year – and filled up another dye pot.

I usually add the leaves to Vietnamese-style cold rolls and salads, so was eager to find out just how good a dye it is. As it was simmering, there was the aroma of Nell Gwyn’s hhouttyniaands in the laundry room, but nothing overpowering.

And the findings? Alum/CoT mordant definitely required, and an alkaline modifier brings out the full colour. In real life, the skein on the far right is more of a turmeric colour, full and rich. I’m eager to test this one for light- and wash-fastness.