dye | spin

Waysides Home

June 26, 2015

This post is part of a collaborative natural dye and mapping project with Annie Cholewa called Waysides: Local Colour from Our Home Grounds.

During the course of my Wayside dyeing wanderings, I realised that I had not included a dye plant that represented home. Home is the beginning of all journeys. What is the colour of home?

As these thoughts occurred during late autumn, I didn’t dwell over much on this question. The plant that frames our days at home, that overarches the bicycles on the back veranda is an Ornamental Grape, Vitus vinifera. It flames scarlet in late autumn. It is our delight and wonder. This is the plant that marks our seasons. This is where the colour of home resides.

IMG_0369I wanted that scarlet for the Waysides project. I tried solar dyeing a small amount of alum mordanted silk with some of the red leaves whilst I was finishing other dye lots. It yielded a very lovely rose.

After I had combed, spun and mordanted a batch of the English Leicester from Collingwood Children’s Farm, the yarn was immersed in a vat of red leaves. I had soaked these for a couple of weeks, very gently simmered them and the red colouring was evident in the dye water. I very gently simmered the yarn for about an hour…and made beige!


I gently simmered some more…still beige.

I left it to soak for a couple of days…still beige.

Here are the colours I made with the English Leicester 2 ply, premordanted with alum.

IMG_0796From left to right, you can see the unmodified skein, followed by the skeins modified with copper solution, iron solution, vinegar and washing soda. That last one is the stand out for me after I stopped cursing and started noticing.

Despite the complete lack of scarlet or even pink, nevertheless, these skeins are still the colour of our home. They are the colour inside our Ornamental Grape who cools us in the summer and beguiles us in the autumn.

IMG_0807These skeins represent the backyard, the view from the living room, the beginning of the school journey, the end of each weekday. The hammock swings underneath branches who have witnessed countless toy picnics, tussles, tears, play houses and dolly beds. Fallen leaves accumulate against the back door and often find their way under chairs and bookcases.


Interestingly, these colours are almost a match for the dye lot from the purple leafed Ornamental Plum. You can follow my Waysides journey here and that of Annie Cholewa, my comrade in dye-pots here.


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  1. our next door neighbor cuts our vine back before it starts to color every year drives me mad I desperately want to see it in full color I am an autumn person why else would i have 10 or more maple trees most different.
    love the green colour you achieved. will take yarn out of the pots that I dyed on Tuesday tomorrow the first one out from the moss was alight olive green too close to your beige to be really good maybe i need to try some soda and see what that gives. maybe try some more next week. I have set a greenhouse up so i can continue to solar dye over winter so time to get something into the jars maybe get soem washed moss in on the weekend.

  2. I love the color of the grape leaves in Autumn, too. I smiled as your post went on to describe the colors that turned out….and all not red or rose! The colors are beautiful and they are all your “home” as you stated. I so enjoy the way you write and share your thoughts and feelings. Joan

  3. So true. The girl in the red party dress is still the same girl when she’s washing the dishes in her housecoat. To find that she is just as loved. Now there’s a thing of beauty.

    Reading the solar dye comments has me much intrigued. Thanks, Joan and Elizabeth.

  4. The ornamental vine is lovely. I will have to see if it can be grown in Alabama. Your dye experiments may not be rosy, but your thoughts about the colour of home were warm with evocative memories. Happy times, Rebecca, that I’m glad you recalled.

  5. Ahh, that beige – there’s been no escaping it, has there?! It may not be the scarlet you hoped for but it is truly lovely as a tonal palette. I love that you have a “home” set as part of this project. Maybe this yarn could be paired with an acid-dyed or commercial red yarn, to complete the story of the finished piece? Or not. 😉

  6. Geeze………ever tried using the leaves on silk, wrapped and streamed like Local and Bespoke does? Despite the lack of Red/pink the leaves are lovely to look at. Like that they sneak into the house 🙂

  7. These are lovely homey beige tones. One day scarlet will emmerge from your dying pots and be even more special for all its allusiveness. We had a vitis vinifera growing on the back fence when I was growing up, you are so right that it marks the seasons so beautifully.

  8. Truly a paean to your ornamental grape – and home…..such a lovely post….so much incidental pleasure to your dyeing experiments. It is a wise soul that can take pleasure where it comes – even if it’s not what you expected/wanted. It is strange, tho’, that plants that are distinctly red do not carry that colour thro’ when dyeing – I am not a botanist but wish I were to understand this. Particularly love the image of those vine leaves finding new homes under the furniture.

  9. I have just found your blog via Kate Davies instagram page. I’ll be reading it from now on. What an interesting, exciting, informative, and engaging blog. I love reading about your local natural dying, fleece, and spinning. Way to go!!!!!!!

  10. I realise that I have done exactly the same thing … missed home, in part because here on the opposite side of the globe my best dye plants haven’t been in the right season. Your grape leaf skeins are beautiful to my eye.

    If you have time and opportunity you should borrow a copy of Natural Dyes by Dominque Cardon, I think you might find the dye chemistry therein interesting, it will help to explain all the beautiful neutrals you have dyed.

  11. Despite yielding unexpected greens (interestingly the opposite of red) and browns (green and red make brown – co-incidence, perhaps). I do love your colours of home, to me they are representative of the warmth and comfort I don’t doubt is there in abundance. A beautiful project. Rebecca, I have so enjoyed following along! xo

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