Petalplum

dahlia

Dye Garden Notes for Autumn - April

Botanical DyeEllie Beck1 Comment
Japanese indigo flowers in the early morning dew. I love the way the spiders creep in at night time to make their little homes.

Japanese indigo flowers in the early morning dew. I love the way the spiders creep in at night time to make their little homes.

Japanese Indigo in flower, polygonum tinctorium

Japanese Indigo in flower, polygonum tinctorium

I am slowly slowly getting my garden becoming more of a thing. The dahlias, cosmos and zinnias from Summer’s garden are still blooming quite abundantly, but it’s all looking a little overgrown and end-of-season-ish. A couple of weeks ago, we made a new garden bed, and I planted out the indigo and woad. As well as some other things that needed to from pots to the ground.

We created a layer garden bed, using old palm fronds and some of our composting toilet compost / soil, as well as soil that we’d previously gathered from the forest - from an old abandoned bush turkey mound. Perfect amazing soil, those bush turkeys sure are wonderful at making soil. But it’s a lot of hard work digging it all up from the forest and bringing it down into our yard, barrow or bucket at a time. That’s why the garden work is slow. The long work of it all. The raised bed idea is easiest for us, on our land, as the ground is full of rocks and quite clay-ish. Creating a raised garden bed is fairly easy to do. I learned from a workshop I did last Spring, but also Milkwood book has some great help and ideas.

Tote bags made using fabric dyed from my garden (except the blue from indigo vat). Purple is from elderberries, oranges from dahlias, pink from avocado, greys from iron over dahlia. In the back ground you can see the beginnings of the pokeweed starting to ripen - the birds got them all this year, so no dye experiments alas.

Tote bags made using fabric dyed from my garden (except the blue from indigo vat). Purple is from elderberries, oranges from dahlias, pink from avocado, greys from iron over dahlia. In the back ground you can see the beginnings of the pokeweed starting to ripen - the birds got them all this year, so no dye experiments alas.

  • Currently the Japanese Indigo (polygonum tinctorium) is in flower. I did put it in late in the season, so I’m hoping it’ll go to seed and I can collect that and then grow fresh next Spring. It hasn’t really grown big enough for me to pick any leaves. Not enough to make any sort of dye experiments, thats for sure.

  • The ‘true’ indigo (indigofera tinctoria) that I planted all died before I could even transplant them into the garden. I’ve read that they are fussy with water - don’t like too much, don’t like not enough. I saved some seeds from the batch I bought and will try again in Spring. And I’ll keep them out of the rainy weather so I can control the watering situation.

  • The woad (isatis tinctoria) is growing slowly, but healthily. I’ve no idea if it’ll flower before Winter, or simply die. Or just keep going through, that would be great wouldn’t it.

  • I planted blackk hollyhocks, but not sure that I know / knew how to get the best out of them. I’ve since read that they don’t flower until the second year, and need a lot of tending. So we’ll see. One batch started flowing over, and growing along the ground. The other batch - in a different section - is still just a small plant. I had expected them to be tall by now. Anyway. All lessons.

  • I did put some seeds in of ‘dyers marigold’ (which is different than the regular marigold that I have growing), but none came up. Which is strange as marigolds are generally very hardy. But I’ll try again in late Winter. Or perhaps I’ll run out a poke a few in the soil now. I’m an eggs in all the baskets, seeds in all the seasons type of gardener. I have found the marigolds I have (the regular orange and yellow ones, small heads) don’t give as vibrant or regular colour as I’d expect; so I think I do need a different marigold. What’s your experience or thoughts on this?

    • I got my dye seeds from All Rare Herbs, they have an excellent selection of dye seeds / plants, if you live in Australia - I think it’s the best I’ve seen in any one place. They also sell plants at certain times of the year, so I might try that too - especially madder, which takes many years to grow before ready for harvesting. I have seen people selling indigo seeds via Instagram and Facebook as well, if you’re after some.

    • I’ll add to the dye seeds before Springtime. Dyers Chamomile, tansy, henna, madder, and Syrian Rue I have already.

This weekend past I planted rannunculus, anemones, freesias, jonquils and garlic. As well as a few different seeds that I put in randomly - some old poppies that I’m crossing my fingers will grow, and some dark deep purple pansies. Last year I dyed with the dark purple rannunc I was given and they were amazing. So I’m hoping to be able to experiment more with that come Springtime. I’m not sure if I’ll try the jonquils in the dye pot - I know that daffodils are amazing, but they won’t grow here very happily (without a lot of extra tending), so I’m not going to bother planting any. I have dyed with them in the past, when I managed to get some from a market in Sydney. Stunning amazing yellow - if you have daffodils growing, do try them in your dye pot. And we’ll see if I get enough jonquils to plunge them into water.

The orange cosmos has made an amazing print on my linen. I haven’t tried it on silk, because I have none to work with, The seeds are popping up everywhere in the new garden patch, so I think I’ll have lots to test with over the coming year. For some strange reason I never dyed fabric with the purple cosmos - they were stunning on paper. So, I’ll have to wait until next Spring and hope my self-collected seeds grow.

I have to share an updated dahlia dyeing journal - because I’ve been getting lots of lovely varieties of colours and tones depending on dye process. But the deep purple ones that I was gifted last Spring are still going so strongly. The little orange ones have died down now - probably mostly due to their end of the garden becoming a little overgrown. I have some sown from seeds as well that are much slower and littler, but might be bigger next season.

I’d love to know what you might want to learn, read, know about natural dyeing and gardening and fabric and such. Is there a plant you’ve wanted to dye with, but not sure how. Do you want me to write a little dye notes on using dahlias - and share my colours? Let me know….

Dahlia bud - this one is a special that we’ve had only two of. From the same plant as all the dark deep purples, it’s given some of these white petals. Dark coloured dahlia flowers gives yellows, oranges and even gentle browns in the dye pot.

Dahlia bud - this one is a special that we’ve had only two of. From the same plant as all the dark deep purples, it’s given some of these white petals. Dark coloured dahlia flowers gives yellows, oranges and even gentle browns in the dye pot.

Pink zinnia and orange cosmos

Pink zinnia and orange cosmos

Woad - isatis tinctoria

Woad - isatis tinctoria

natural dye notes : sorbet sherbet colours from January

Botanical Dye, Creative ProcessEllie BeckComment
Fabric sorbet Febrary 2019 web size.jpeg
Naturally dyed fabric with hand. Purple orange. By Ellie Beck Petalplum
E84D52EA-D730-4FC5-A6AD-727CE14A8AC3.JPG

I spent a good many days during the hot of January and into early February dyeing fabric. Using local colour (mostly) to creates a bundle of fabric that feels like Summer’s sherbets and sorbets. I’m trying to keep better notes and journals of my dyeing; who knows why… it’s never the same next time is it!

Anyway - here’s what I created and what I used to dye it. Flowers and berries from my garden. Fallen tree bark from the forest. And a few powdered dyes as well, mostly because I still have them from a few years ago and trying to use them up.

  • Dahlia flowers - both dried and fresh in the pot. They created yellows, oranges and warm goldens. I also later - after this photo - made some very lovely warm browns. More dahlia dye notes coming soon.

  • This divine purple is from elderberries. This is the first time our plants have ever produced berries (all the heat?) and while there is only a small handful, I’m so glad I tested it out. There’s a few more ripening so hopefully I can have a play again next week. Not sure yet about the lightfastness of it; berries are known for fading.

  • This beautiful eucalyptus tree outside dropped all it’s bark recently. I had as much fun playing with the bark, as with dyeing. I did have wishful hopes for some pinks, but we rarely get that from our trees around here, so it was more a pale brown. The addition of iron (rusty nails) created a very very beautiful grey.

  • Madder powder gave me these purples and pinks. No reds - I think the powder was quite old, not sure if that effects it or not. I am on the look out for a madder plant or seeds, as I’d love to add this to my slowly slowly growing dye garden.

This stack of fabrics was dyed for my Little Moments of Creative Fabric Kits. I made a tote bag with mine, as well as some of the scraps went into this piece I am slowly working into a quilt. If you’d like your own bundle of dyed fabrics, I have just a few left in my current pre-order for Little Moments of Creative.

You can read more of my Natural Dye Notes here. And my online course shows you how to dye and create colours.

Fabric stack January 2019 - botanically naturally dyed_ web size.jpeg
Naturally dyed tote bag in the garden -January 2019 Ellie Beck.jpg
MIshi in garden with naturally dyed tote bag web size.jpeg