catching up on the dyeing experiments

I have not posted any more about my experiments with India Flint’s methods of dyeing with plants, but here is some catching up.


I bought some milky merino jersey which I have been finding pretty good for taking up dye, and with its more robust feel I think it’s quite good for scarves. it doesn’t come as a tube, and it has a definite twist, two things which make it a bit less suitable for the sort of dressmaking I am getting into. this piece got an initial treatment in a florist’s waste e. cinnerea dyebath all stitched up with shibori and then made into a loose bundle, which is the red rust part. then I soaked it in rainwater in my new iron cauldron, and finally bundled it with holm oak leaves. the result is painterly, but not floral and may well end up as a birthday present for my dear friend and neighbour Paul, who has been admiring it.


then a friend had to take down a big e. gunni which had been living happily in essex until it got wind rock this horribly windy winter. I got a packet of leaves in the post, which tested giving green prints like this, no sign of orange rusts. the vein pattern on this wool gauze sample is from the pot it was wrapped around, from the crawling glaze.


lacking a garment to dye I chopped off a piece of silky merino jersey (30% silk), keeping it as a tube, and wrapped it with the Essex leaves around the same pot, which is roughly cylindrical and fits into my dyepot, conveniently. this gives me a very nice long rectangle of resist wrapping with string. a few bits of beachcombed scrap iron add to the rectangle theme. on this side the gunnii leaves have produced a purplish print


but on the other side there was plenty of green. I managed to cut the upper part of a loose sleeveless dress out of it, and nothing was wasted. strips cut from the armhole shape made the edgings for armhole and neck


and this little pocket came from the piece cut for the front neck, while a side pocket came from the rest,


embellished with the silk and viscose velvet I added to make up the length.


I’m really quite pleased with this, though I do have to hem the velvet, it grew whiskers on one wearing …


I have been avoiding/ducking the issue of dyeing cotton, but recently I got a bit braver and pulled a few white cotton things out of my various stashes and hoards. this pillowcase has been dyed twice, the first time with holm oak and iron scrap after an iron bath, the second time with essex eucalyptus gunnii and florists waste e. cinnerea. it has also been washed, just to see what would happen – and nothing did. it’s much soberer than wool, but still pleasing.


since then I have done a couple more bundlings, one with the old cotton pieces, two tops, one of which acquired a pleasant mauveish grey with some not very leafy markings from the sequence of iron bath and bundling with holm oak, and the other, after similar treatment and then 2 weeks immersed in a jar, appeared to have a lot of the dark grey fall off it which sat on the bottom of the jar – interesting … above is a new organic cotton top which has had iron bath then bundling with essex gunnii, holm oak and scrap iron. quite a restrained effect.


an interesting mark from leaf blocking the rectangular piece of iron.


this dress has had two lots of bundling, the first with a tree fern leaf.


I wrapped it around a pot with a glaze of excessive amounts of copper, which did interesting things with the probably mildy acidic fern leaf. however I don’t think it was nice enough for the rather special dress, so I bundled again with the two sorts of eucalypt leaves at hand, and got a lovely rich but delicate and sober result.


yesterday I decided I would use up some of my leaf stock and try a longer boil, as this had produced a good result on some tests of wool gauze. so I sliced off the last but one shawl width from the milky merino (30% milk fibre) and indulged in a good sprinkling of very aged e. cinnerea leaves, and some stems I was given for Christmas, interlaced with e.gunnii stems and leaves, boiling it in a bath of holm oak leaves from our village spinney (thank you national trust) for an hour after a long slow build up, and then leaving it to boil on and gradually slow as the woodburner cooled after I went to bed.


this proved to be a good strategy, and when I opened it this afternoon I found wonderful almost red orange rusts.


I wrapped it round the pot with the crawling glaze again, so in some places I have those strange veiny marks.


back in Spain next week I’m looking forward to encina (sweet oak) catkins, yellow broom, and the eucalypts there which give golds and purples.


this is from alder catkins, after an iron bath, on milky merino. alder has lots of tannin. I’m also looking forward to trying alder leaves, and the little cones too. and the summer leaves of sweet chestnut, sycamore, oak … and all the other plants after a rather limited winter.





  1. no no, this is over five weeks, and not much sewing at all! 😀
    also I believe you have been away from your studio/workshop quite a bit …

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