Golden Waysides

April 4, 2015

I am still spinning like a Norn in an effort to keep up with my 120 gram dye lots for Waysides: Finding Local Colour in Our Home Grounds, a collaborative natural dyeing project with Annie Cholewa. Sometimes the treadling pace wanes, but I recently found gold.

IMG_0121Curly Dock Rumex crispis is an environmental weed in Australia. It is aggressive and prolific, crowding out pasture crops in grazing land and reducing biodiversity in parks and bush areas. It has broad green leaves and flower spikes that yield over 60,000 seeds per plant.  The seeds turn a dark scarlet in early autumn. The roots are tuberous.

IMG_20150320_144741On our way back from a bike ride, I saw the flower spikes and thought they might yield some colour. My youngling and I returned with some bags down to the creek banks and spent a hot morning foraging and looking for ladybirds. A quick spot of interweb research had me digging up the roots too.

IMG_0161The dock roots reputedly yield yellow and after much chopping, I had a saucepanfull set to simmering. This pot doesn’t have a lid and clearly I did not check on it in a timely fashion and I burnt them. They shall not yield yellow now!

IMG_0164The flowers were were simmered for an hour in rainwater and left overnight to steep, then strained. I then simmered alum mordanted English Leceister skeins for an hour and left them to steep for a couple of hours.

IMG_0202After rinsing, the skeins were modified by vinegar, washing soda, home made copper and iron solutions.

IMG_0213From right to left you can see the unmodified colour, followed by copper, iron, vinegar and washing soda. I think the washing soda is the stand out colour here, a strong golden yellow.

IMG_0216And here in full glory is the sum of my efforts so far…truly a symphony of beige! Did I think I was going to find purples? There is a reason only the emperors wore it. Did I think I was going to find blue? Not a whole lot of wayside indigo or wode here!

I have found gold and silver but there is only so much beige subtlety a modern urban woman can tolerate for her hard won skeins. So, I am off to explore the eucalypts. Eucalyptus nichollii thrilled me once. I really need more thrill.

Remember you can catch up with Annie’s Wayside progress here and see all my posts on Waysides here.

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  1. Beautiful. I really love the subtle shades. Your yarn makes all the colours glow. I would like to know a little about how you learned to spin.

  2. YEA! Golden threads among the silver, er beige 🙂 Wonder what would happen if you over dyed some of your beige? we also have that plant here and I also remember digging up roots, in my first spinning/dyeing classes…ah, that would be in 1974….please don’t tell any one 🙂 Yousa. Somewhere I have that first sample group.
    good job on checking it out and did you know that:
    http://abchomeopathy.com/r.php/Rumx I know it mainly from Homeopathy now and I am not sure if it grows up here or not.
    Nice supply of yarn awaiting the pots. Can’t wait to see the Eucalyptus, some give lovely reds.

  3. I loved the gentle trajectory of this post (the writing especially). That gold is quite a stand out and makes me think of Silas Marner. 🙂

  4. I’m really enjoying following your hard work on this project, Rebecca – so interesting to see the updates! The latest batch of colours look just a gorgeous spectrum of soft goldy, greeny browny colours – and your homespun is just so lustrous! I wonder if you have any lichen locally? I think you can get purple with lichen soaked in urine (ugh)!

  5. It may be a symphony of beige, but what a beautiful lustrous, gold tinged symphony. It’s lovely to think weeds are being used to make beautiful hues, but I am looking forward to seeing what surprises the next noble eucalypt will reveal.

  6. Oh my, memories! That plant grew in the fields in my neighborhood! We kids used to call them “Popcorn Plants.” As soon as they turned red, we pulled off handfuls of dry seed to pelt each other with. Great fun at the time. 🙂

  7. They are still such beautiful coloured skeins though. I spent quite some time ridding an area of our small garden of dock lol. But the gold/yellow skein from it looks fantastic!

  8. I would never have thought of trying those spiky stems! I see them everywhere, good on you for finding a use for them.

    The beige symphony may work well paired with some commercially dyed (non-beige) yarns at some point down the track, but I’d be heading for the eucalyptus too 😉

  9. At least you did a good job weeding the dock out! The gold is lovely – like a maiden’s hair in some Elizabethan sonnet!

  10. Silas Marner! Gosh, I reading the comments, Rebecca. They always have me scrambling for a book or a technique.

    I’ve been thinking about your beige conundrum. Not here to shake you out of it. I have no sage advice, although you have a couple of sage and herby tones I covet. I do believe that as your expertise grows, your palette will as well. Mother Nature didn’t spring fully formed, now did she?

  11. I have been reading your local dyeing experiments with great enjoyment…. having achieved many many beige skeins with my forays into natural dyeing I am pleased that others have too. However, put together all your skeins are just beautiful and I love the yellow which pops out amongst them.

    A couple of years ago our little house in the hills south-east of Perth was surrounded by black cockatoos busy demolishing the top of a jarrah tree some 100 ft off the ground. Piles of leaves were scattered all over the road. So, I gathered some up popped them in to the dyepot. I also gathered the leaves from the base of the tree which had been lying there throughout the hot summer and simmered them too. The house smelt wonderful. I then drained the dye pots and popped in a few unmordanted little skeins in each pot.

    The result was two different colours – I am at a loss to find the skeins to take a photo and I know that would be the way to show you. The cockatoo harvested yarn was a lovely yes, beige, but a very pretty beige bright and cheerful. The older tree base dried leaves produced a stronger but somehow flatter beige brown colour. I will see if I can find the skeins today…

    So, use rare birds to harvest your leaves, it works a treat!

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