it’s been a couple of weeks since I posted pictures of snow and frost, but already it feels like spring is coming, as the days get longer. my early walks are no longer begun before the sun is above the horizon.

twotrees

we go from frosty morning to rainy, windy night from day to day

frostedleaf

crocuses are flowering in my garden, but I had to pull up mats of half dead grass and dead nettles to find them. the snow drops that I laboured so hard to put in are crowding around the edges, some clumps need splitting.

bramble view

out in the fields birds are singing every morning, a blackbird carolling across the other side, several song thrushes improvising from the tops of the tallest trees in the woods

sunraindrops

I have been making pots in my shed, the red clay has a warm glow, but I did have to light the woodstove.

clematis

red is a preoccupation; I tried madder dye (from the roots of rubia tinctoria) before christmas with tannin and citric acid, but now I am trying a different method, using symplocos, a wild rainforest plant from Indonesia, as a mordant. this works in the same way as alum, the traditional western mordant which is extracted from bauxite, but it is easier to use, and the use of it supports Indonesian communities and rainforests. you simmer silk or wool in a bath of rainwater and symplocos for half an hour, rinse, and then you can put straight into the pot with any of the usual plant dyes.

cochineal

I sampled various pre-mordanted silks and wools with cochineal – not a plant, but the crushed bodies of an insect rather like greenfly that lives on central and south American cacti.

madder with symplocos

and then with madder. such a clear red! the lighter ones are the silks, and silk/merino jersey, the darker one at the top is wool crepe which always takes deeply saturated colour, and at the bottom some silk noil (wild silk) which had already been in a holm oak/eucalyptus/iron water dyebath.

magpie sleeve

I have two dresses which have been tied and dyed in the holm oak mix ready for further dyeing with symplocos/madder or cochineal – or indeed the logwood I have ordered (purples).

obre tie silk dress

or perhaps in this case leaving as it is ….

madder ring

and some tests in the pot to see if this madder dyed length of silk, ready tied, would lose its beautiful vibrant red if boiled up in the holm oak, as madder is quite heat sensitive. if it would, I’ll over-dye with indigo.

bracken red

this natural orange red happens when the old bracken gets soaked by rain, until in the end it gets darker and darker to purple blacks. nature has the best colours in the end.

kimonobleed

I’ve also been experimenting with wrapping up fabrics together so that one bleeds its colour inside the bundle and prints onto the other fabric. I have no idea what this kimono fabric is dyed with – it’s been laboriously shibori-dyed in a beautiful deep rust red. it releases a pure red onto the other fabric -silk or wool, both are in the dress – for a dissolved, soft look

bleedprint

adding touches of colour to the plant dye

newpot

pots waiting to be made

bluesky

walks waiting to inspire

hedgecut