Saturday, November 26, 2011

Plant-Dyeing All Summer and Fall

Japanese Indigo, Late Summer

 Here I am trying to catch up again.  This will be a whirlwind look at what has been happening with Sojourner Design since my last post.

The Japanese Indigo did splendidly this summer; as I recall, I harvested four times.  I dried some of the leaves; supposedly one can ferment dried Japanese Indigo leaves, thus spreading out some of the indigo dyeing activity into the colder months.  We shall see.

Fibers dipped in Japanese Indigo vat

I was pleased with my dyeing results with the Japanese Indigo although I'd like to have gotten more color from the dyebath and I found it difficult to find days when I could set aside the time to harvest and then immediately dye with the plant.

I also didn't succeed in harvesting seeds for next year.  The plants flowered like crazy (see the tiny pink blooms, lower left, in the photo).  Our weather was so wet and crazy this fall that I never detected what I thought were seeds.  I'll plant more next year but have also bought woad seeds to try.  Woad plants were used for centuries in Europe to obtain blue color.

Pokeweed Closeup; This bract isn't ready to pick

Pokeweed was FUN!  During the early part of the summer I scoped out where there were accessible pokeweed bushes, then the rest of the summer I checked them regularly to be sure I was there to pick at the point that as many berries on each bract were plump and juicy.

Fiber Dyed with Pokeweed

Most plants had bracts ready to pick starting in the early fall and right up to frost.
I had only one dyeing session with pokeweed berries, dyeing with the bath until the dyestuff was exhausted.  Numerous colors were obtained by over-dyeing other colors.

I harvested more bracts, however, for the freezer.  I don't know if I'll succeed but I'll try dyeing with the thawed berries sometime this winter.

Pokeweed is considered to be an invasive weed.  But, having gotten to know the plant better, I have an appreciation for the plant.  I allowed a couple of the plants to grow up at the edge of my garden and enjoyed the lovely shape that the plant becomes when it's not relegated to neglected weed patches.

I almost missed the boat with goldenrod.  I had tried it a few years ago, getting the same predictable green/gold color that I associated with most plant dyes.  Not enthused about trying it again, I waited until the goldenrod flowers were few and far between before discovering that they can produce a lovely soft buttery yellow if used correctly.

Walnuts soaking in water
The walnut dyeing continued, and will continue.  I have several bags of walnuts slumbering away in my basement freezer, awaiting a mid winter dye day.  Here is the large jar in which I soak walnuts.  This photo was taken minutes after the walnuts were added to the water.  They are floating at the top, out of range.  The dyestuff is sinking downward from the nuts anc accumulating at the bottom of the jar.  In a short time the water will be black!

Speaking of walnut dyeing, I shot a quick video about what walnut trees and their fruits look like and how I harvest them when I was out in the pasture one day moving sheep.  Watch it here.

Finally, just last week, it was Shearing Day.  Here's Bud keeping an eye on all concerned.
Shearing Day

Click here to watch my shearer, Kevin Ford, at work while sheep and Border Collie watch.