The Obsessive Dyer

It has been slightly more than two months since natural dyeing in general and solar dyeing in particular piqued my interest, but already I am turning into a maniac.

Whether I am indoors in the comfy chair with my feet up, or on the sofa bed outside… I am continuously scanning the garden for something to use as a natural dye, such as leaves, petals, bark and even lichen.

On top of that there is all that information online: not only ingredients to check, but also blogs to read, and forums to learn about the endless possibilities of methods and people’s experiments.

Actually, I Am An Obsessive Gatherer

The last two weeks of April and the biggest part of May we had lovely weather making me think Summer had arrived in Spring. Not once before we had to water the garden this early in the year.
During that time I finally managed to dye four mini-skeins in a jar on the windowsill using petals I gathered in the garden. The sun was working hard and so was I, thinking of all the possible ingredients that were out there waiting to be unearthed, waiting to be discovered. And that was when things turned frantic.


With the blue and purple columbines giving me the first successful solar dye, I decided to get rid of the white columbines. I removed those after losing their last petals – being considerate to the bees and butterflies, but before they could develop seeds, to increase the chances of having even more blue and purple columbines next year.
And as the garden is far too large for me to walk to the end and back every so often… I cannot check up on the oregon grape to see if the berries are ready for picking. I am hoping that, one day, I’ll be able to get cuttings from this plant to grow one or two nearer to the house. At the moment I am still not sure to put a bow on it, so my partner knows which plant to keep an eye on.
Two weeks ago he took me in the wheelchair to a pet food store two blocks from here. They also sell plants and seeds, and we bought a tray of dark purple Million Bells petunias that just fitted my lap! I hadn’t seen when buying, but these came with a bunch of dead petals which I collected before my partner put the plants up in our vertical garden. Imagine all those petals being removed by the store owner minutes before we showed up, that would have been such a waste.
Then there is our old robinia often losing dead branches on a windy day. On it there is quite a bit of lichen that is an ancient ingredient for a natural dye. The colors extracted from it can be spectacular: from vibrant turquoise to bright pink. There is something very soothing about rubbing the lichen from the old wood… and the texture of this micro organism is intriguing. I wonder if I could ask the neighbor, just thinking out loud here, if she would mind tossing the branches back over the fence. If I ask politely, why not? I’ve been called a looney for less.

June wasn’t that glorious weather-wise. The jars were waiting patiently for a sunny day to arrive, as opposed to me. I spent most days indoors all bundled up and was desperate for a change in temperatures. Impatiently, drum drum drumming my fingers on the table.
At last, the extended weather forecast says there will be plenty of sun and high temperatures this week. But I just found out that grape hyacinths are suitable to use as an ingredient for a dye, and now I can’t wait for Winter to arrive.

If you enjoyed this story, you might want to read The Guilty Knitter.

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And you can find me on Twitter: @Fleurtje_Eliza.

This post is also available in: Dutch

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