Weld is Flowering and Proliferating

Weld is a biennial. The Latin name for weld is Reseda luteola. Luteolin is the molecule in weld that makes yellow. A plant that is a biennial typically lives for two years, and only flowers and sets seed in the second year. These weld plants were planted this spring, but as of July 18th several of them have already sent up tall stalks. They look suspiciously like they are starting to flower. This does happen sometimes, but it is still a little puzzling to me.

Below is a view of the weld bed with all the tall plants.

bolting weld

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First Woad Vat of 2014

Due to one thing and another, I am not growing a lot of woad this year. I’m a little bit sad about it, but there it is. Nonetheless, I ran my first woad vat of the summer on Friday August 8th and had some interesting results. In the morning I picked 3 and a half pounds of leaves, which I did not expect to make a very strong vat.

Some blue color appeared in the stems as I ripped up the leaves, which was a good sign.

blue woad stems

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Marigolds at the Massachusetts Sheep and Woolcraft Fair

I discovered something interesting about marigolds at Mass. Sheep and Wool. In a nutshell, an acidic dyebath yielded olive green whereas an alkaline dyebath yielded yellow.

Here’s how I found out. I made the marigold dyebath during the demonstration on Saturday May 24th. Here’s a photo of the marigolds in the dyebath:

marigolds in dyebath

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Sunday at Sheep and Wool

Well, today turned out to be a gorgeous day with just a couple showers. No thunderstorms or hail, thank goodness! In this post I’m just going to follow up on the St-John’s-wort dyebath, and show some photos of my set-up in the pavilion at the Cummington Fairgrounds.

First, here are some of the samples I brought to show. In the basket on the left are yarns that are dyed with plants you have to grow or purchase, and which don’t grow wild around here. These include madder, orange cosmos, weld, purple basil, Lady’s bedstraw, and marigolds. In the basket on the right are yarns that are dyed with a woad vat to make blue or green (woad-blue on top of yarns previously dyed yellow). The pinkish colors are from exhausted woad leaves, second year leaves, and my sole attempt at a urine vat.

cultivated color

Below is a basket full of colors that can be obtained from wild plants and umbilicate lichen. Wild plants represented here include yarrow, Queen Anne’s lace, goldenrod, tansy, wild mustard, yellow sorrel, sheep’s sorrel, black walnut, St-John’s-wort flowers, poke berries, purple loosestrife, and northern bedstraw. All the pinks are from umbilicate lichen vats.

wild colors

 

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Massachusetts Sheep and Woolcraft Fair 2014

This weekend, May 24th and 25th, is the 40th annual Massachusetts Sheep and Woolcraft Fair at the Cummington Fairgrounds. I am doing natural dyeing demonstrations again this year. I was there from 2-4 yesterday and will be there from 1-3 today. Yesterday’s weather was lovely for most of the day and I had a large crowd. Thanks to everyone who stopped by to watch and listen and ask questions! We had a brief heavy afternoon rainstorm but it cleared up after about half an hour. Today is supposed to be warmer with a slight chance of heavy rain and hail. Well, let’s hope for the best.

To prepare for the demo, on Friday night I made a dyebath with 12 ounces of dried whole tops of St.-John’s-wort from last fall. I cut the tops back after the flowers had gone by, and the dried stems and leaves had turned an amazing red color. I’ve used St.-John’s-wort flowers before, and the whole tops in bloom, but never just the dried tops alone. So, it is an experiment.

Here’s what St.-John’s-wort looks like in bloom.

St.-John's-wort in bloom

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Black Walnut Ink

Over the past few weeks in my class at school, we have been making black walnut ink. It is one of the craft and science projects we’re doing as part of our study of Colonial New England. We plan to use the ink to write with quill pens in pamphlet-stitch-bound “copy books” to scribe historical aphorisms such as “Mind your book,” “Strive to learn,” “Call no ill names,” and “Cheat not in your play”. Yes, OK, these are pretty moralistic, but speaking as a primary school teacher, I actually think they are still pertinent to a 21st century classroom in a progressive independent school.

To make the ink we are using the highly composted/aged/fermented contents of a 5 gallon bucket of black walnut hulls in water, which dates back not just one but TWO Autumns ago (i.e., Autumn 2012). Fresh walnut hulls are fragrant, even perfume-like. Mine, as it turned out, had become manure-like. Continue reading “Black Walnut Ink”

Microscopic Fiber Images

Gardening season is kicking into gear here in Amherst, MA. This year I am planning to add swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) and amsonia (Amsonia spp.) to my fiber and dyeplant garden at Bramble Hill Farm. I got the swamp milkweed seeds from my sister, Simone, from a plant near her apartment. You can see a photo of some cordage I made from it in an earlier blog post here.

I was inspired to grow amsonia after botanist and fellow-flax-enthusiast, Carolyn, brought some gorgeous bast fibers from her amsonia plants to one of our flax and linen study group get-togethers. On my initial foray to Andrew’s Greenhouse yesterday I found three varieties of amsonia available, but wasn’t sure which one might be best, so I shot off an email to Carolyn. She sent back some good advice, plus this incredibly awesome link which I must now urgently share with anyone else who might be reading my blog! Continue reading “Microscopic Fiber Images”

Exhausting the Orange Cosmos

These last two posts are very belated, so a reader may have totally forgotten that the weld and cosmos baths I’m talking about were left over from my workshop at the annual spring conference of Mass.Ag. in the Classroom back on March 8th.

Compared to the questions raised by the weld exhaust process, the exhaustion of the orange cosmos bath was relatively straightforward. I only dyed woolen yarns, mordanted with aluminum sulfate. Below you can see the first exhaust skein in the dyebath:

skein in cosmos exhaust dyebath

Here are the colors of yarns once they were rinsed and dried! Continue reading “Exhausting the Orange Cosmos”

Exhausting the Weld Bath Part Two

After those intense, vivid colors on 40/2 linen yarns from the first and second weld exhaust baths, I assumed there was still quite a bit of color left in the bath. I thought it would be fun to try a couple experiments. My first experiment was to put a mordanted cotton-linen blend skein in the weld bath overnight, but not to heat it at all.

Why would I even try this? Well, the answer is kind of a long story. Even though my usual method is to apply heat when extracting color and dyeing fiber, I am very aware of the fact that this requires energy. Way back in 2006 I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to travel to Kyrgyzstan along with feltmaker Karen Page, to work with a group of women in a village who wanted to develop a crafts business. My part of the project was to teach them what I knew about natural dyeing, and Karen’s job was to teach them new felting techniques. Continue reading “Exhausting the Weld Bath Part Two”

Exhausting the Weld Bath–Part One

After my dyeing workshop at Massachusetts Agriculture in the Classroom I had two strong dyebaths left over. One was weld and the other orange cosmos.

The original weld bath was made with 6oz. dried plant material from second year plants in bloom. I had originally divided the bath in half because I wanted to add calcium carbonate to the bath in which I dyed the cellulose cloth swatches, but not to the bath in which I dyed the protein swatch books. I’m not sure that the calcium carbonate would do anything bad to the wool or silk, but I consulted my notes from a workshop with Joan Morris and according to my notes we hadn’t added it to the protein dyebath. I decided not to experiment this time around. Continue reading “Exhausting the Weld Bath–Part One”