Painted corn and purple basil

maïs coloré et basilic rouge, gemalter Mais und roter Basilikum, maiz pintado y albahaca roja, arbhar Indiach is basal dearg

Firstly, if anyone can correct any of the names above, I’d be more than interested.

Back to the dyes… I decided to try some purple basil (the annual variety) and also some red basil (a perennial variety), so picked a large handful  – maybe two- of the flowering spikes.

The top row in the photo shows the results. The mordant (2, 4, 6 from left) clearly brought out deeper shades, whilst the alkaline modifier in addition to the mordant (4) gave me a bright green. The acid modifier (5 & 6) took away all the green and left me with beige.


I’d grown some painted corn this year, and one of the plants had a deep purple stem. The husk was also the same interesting shade, so this was worth a go in the dye pot. Both stem and husk spent a week or so drying, but am not sure this was entirely necessary, considering the deep burgundy colour of the liquor.corn

As often happens, the true shades haven’t come out quite true. Similarly to the basil, the modifier deepened the shades and the alkaline brought out the green. This time, however, the acid brought out the red. I’m eager to try these for both light- and wash-fastness (when I’ve finished with all the other samples in the ever-growing mound).

And the corn? The cobs that did develop to any size were not impressive (although the colours were interesting). Most had started to go mouldy inside, and some of the kernels which seemed not fully developed had even started to sprout. I’ll put this down to the weather this summer, as well as my lack of experience with this crop.


Walnut leaves – dried

Juglans regia, feuilles séchées de noyer, getrocknete Walnussblätter, hojas secadas de nogal, duilleoga gallchnó thriomaithe

This doesn’t count as a new dyepot as it was done a few weeks ago. Honest.

I can’t remember if I weighed the leaves; if so, it would’ve been at about 200% wof.  They dried quickly, hung in bunches in the shed. When I decided all moisture had abandoned them, a quick squeeze and rub showed they were still quite flexible and not ready to crumble like dried herbs.dried walnut leaves

The results speak for themselves – an interesting variety of shades, and along with the results from the fresh leaves, quite a range all from one tree.

Now I’m imagining a tartan dyer and weaver living in the vicinity of a walnut tree and having his own plaid in a dozen shades of brown. A project for the future? Next year, perhaps…


Avocado pits and skins

Persea americana, peaux et noyeaux d’avocat, Avocadoschale u. Kerne, cáscara y semillas de aguacate, craiceann is síolta avocado

This will probably be the last dyepot for a while (he says) and let’s face it, the bag of frozen, sliced avocado pits is in danger of being evicted for more deserving residents of the top tray.

I still have a jar of slowly-fermenting pit slices in the laundry awaiting a skein of cotton, but wanted to see how the pits and skins turned out on wool – without a ferment or any other long preparation involving alkalines that might damage the fibre.

200% wof pits were simmered for 45 minutes, the liquor strained over the skeins, followed by a further 45 minutes’ simmering. The bottom row shows the results with an alum/CoT mordant (2, 4 & 6) only darkening (dirtying? or maybe “saddening”) the shades slightly, the bicarb modifier (3 & 4) darkening the pink, and the vinegar modifier (5 & 6) lightening it.


As for the peel (top row), 200% wof dried (all that I had) was soaked in water kept (on-and-off) at approximately 60oC for an hour or two, then again strained over the skeins to be kept at approximately 60oC for another hour. All except the first (no mordant, no modifier) came out more brown than pink/red despite the liquor being a nice shiraz mataro colour, with the mordant and bicarb working together (4) to bring out a honey colour.

Try one more time? I have plenty of frozen and dried pits, but will maybe save these for an upcoming workshop rather than risk being buried under piles of pink skeins. I’ ve tried, Mary Ellen, I’ve tried… 



Punica granatum, écorce de grenade, Granatapfelschale, cáscara de granada, craiceann pomegranáit

I’ve had quite a stock of dried pomegranate peel sitting around in the larder (I refuse to call it a “pantry” as most Australian-born do – sounds too much like something out of Upstairs Downstairs and we don’t have a maid) thanks mainly to a colleague with the appropriate tree – thanks, Fariha! So, after obtaining a beige tone on alpaca yarn some time ago, I wasn’t expecting anything more.

I used 200% wof on wool, and chose the bits of rind with the reddest colouring. The alkaline pomegranate1.jpgmodifier (skeins 3 & 4) darkended the colours, whilst the acid modifier (5 & 6) lightened them. Skeins 1, 3 & 5 demonstrate that no modifier is required. Each shade obtained is, however, worthy in its own right and in real life all are far more vivid.

I had read somewhere that pomegranate, being high in tannin, is also worth consideration in making turmeric more light-fast… Wonder what it will do for alkanet? I just had to try, so in the dye bath mentioned in the previous post, six doppelgangers (that doesn’t seem right without the umlaut, aber ich bin sicher, Ihr konnt es mir vergeben) were thrown in for an overdye.


The original shades of pomegranate alone were strong and I suppose I should’ve repeated the experiment with yellow rind, and maybe at 100% wof. Oh well, let’s just shove some skeins in the pot and see what we get…

…more interesting shades with pinky (and perky) overtones. The light-fast testing will be interesting. Tomorrow’s been downgraded to 41oC (how cool…) whilst Sunday is still forecast to be 42oC. Even if it stays below that, there’s plenty of UV around for the tespomegranate3.jpgt.

Just as an aside, I “marked” the pre-dyed pomegranate skeins with some bits of other wool. How did they emerge from the alkanet bath? GREY AND PURPLE! Grr!!!


Alkanet II

Anchusa tinctoria, orcanette, rothe Ochsenzunge, alcana, boglas

I don’t think I’ve had quite as much linguistic fun and dyepot surprises from any one plant before. While looking up names of alkanet in other languages, I went from English through Irish to ancient Greek, then back to German and Swedish. Let me explain…

The variety/varieties of Anchusa and related genus Pentaglottis are known in northern Europe as either bugloss or ox tongue. I couldn’t find one source that would tell me the name of Anchusa tinctoria in Irish/Gaelic (though I did come up with scorsa luibh, then found I couldn’t verify this anywhere else), so wondered if perhaps bugloss came from the Irish bog/bogach + glas =  green o’ the bog – that’s my name, not one I found somewhere else). Well, no. It appears that bugloss actually comes from Old French, from Latin, from ancient Greek and means “ox tongue”. Well, at least it would have fitted in nicely with Irish and not stuck out like a sore thumb… Nach bhfuil mo bhuglas alainn an bhliain seo! Any genuine gaeilgoir is welcome to make corrections here and should make allowances for a sassenach gan m(h)úinteoir.alkanet.jpg

OK, back to the dyepot… In an earlier post, I’d obtained pure black from steeping the roots in alcohol. This time I tried steeping the roots in water alone for a week, then doing the usual. The results were quite surprising, considering two Guild buddies had come up with purple and grey. All the shades ospoon.jpgbtained were quite distinct, but the most notable results were that no mordant keeps the red, whilst an alkaline modifier transforms the reds to green shades. Here’s an intersting source if you’re interested in the chemistry: green alkanet

So what happened to the purple? Have a look at the spoon which I hadn’t de-gunked before stirring. I may very well give this one more go before I give up. Beirthe caillte…



Sunflower seeds

sem. Helianthus annuus, graines de tournesol, Sonnenblumenkerne, semillas de girasol, síolta lus na gréine

I’ve had a jar of sunflower seeds, var. “Van Gogh”, sitting in the cupboard for about two years now, so high time to use them. The plants grew to just under 6’/2m tall and had large heads. Fortunately for me and the dyepot, they were sterile so the birds and rats sunflower seedsleft them alone.

The seeds are blacker than black, and I think I used 2 x WOF, but didn’t write it down. A few more grammes were added to offset any non-dyestuff (the brown bits), and then the whole lot was simmered for about 45 minutes, producing a deep, purplish-black liquor.

After straining the liquor on to the mini-skeins, the yarn was simmered for another 45 minutes. If there was any smell, I can’t remember, so probably not. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting anything marvellous, so was more than pleased with the results.


Skeins 1 and 5 (left to right) gave red-brown with no mordant (5 had a vinegar modifier), while mordanting brought out the browns (2, 4 & 6). Skein 4 was modified with bicarb, which turned it an interesting shade of green-brown. And the end use? Going on results of light- and wash-fastness (to come soon), I can see a pair of socks using several of the colours together..



Walnut leaves

Juglans regia, feuilles de noyer, Walnussblätter, hojas de nogal, duilleoga gallchnó

It’s the time of year when I remind myself that if I don’t go and pick some green walnuts soon, they’ll be too hard to cut for nocino. Only last week we found two more “wild” trees while out walking doggie and another one on the way bacwalnutk from harvesting, so now that makes seven. Sounds like the making of a poem or song.

I also gathered enough leaves to experiment with dyeing. The results were interesting, even though at first I confused my mordanted with unmordanted samples. The unmordanted yarn was clearly “marked”, but produced slightly lighter shades. Ethel Mairet wrote that mordanted yarns produce a “brighter and richer colour”. I’ll definitely try again, and also with dried leaves.

From the top: unmordanted, mordanted, unmordanted + alkaline modifier, mordanted + alkaline modifier, unmordanted + acid modifier, mordanted + acid modifier.

The alkalinewalnuts2 (bicarb) brought out more brown, whereas the acid (vinegar) brought out a redder tone.

When the leaves were simmering, they smelled surprisingly like rhubarb leaves and did not take long to yield their colour into the water.

And the nuts? They’re already turning the vodka dark and bitter. After steeping for a month or so, the liquor will be strained and bottled and ready to drink this time next year. Well worth the wait!