nichepoetryandprose

poetry and prose about place

harvesting colour – the yellow of tansy

with 10 comments


Since last September, a small bunch of Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare L.) has hung on the line in my kitchen.  Now, with a small batch of alum-treated wool, I am able to see what colour will come from the dried and lifeless flowers.

~

dried Tansy, collected in 2013

dried Tansy, collected in 2013

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To extract the dye, I crumbled the flowers and leaves and soaked them in water overnight.  Then I added more water and brought them slowly to a boil in my big, well-marked dyepot (marked so I will not use it for food by mistake).  After an hour’s boil, I let the dye cool and strained the liquid.  The result was a clear, amber-yellow dye.

~

dye from Tansy and water, simmered

dye from Tansy and water, simmered

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To dye the wool, I added water, immersed a shank of alum-treated wool and slowly brought the dye to a simmer – one hour and then the long process of cooling (I am realising that dyeing is more about waiting than doing!!!!!!!!!!!). The result is a green-yellow, almost exactly the colour shown for Tansy-dyed fibre in Jenny Dean’s book (Wild Color) !!!  My photo is not clear because the drying line insists on vibrating but you can clearly see the colours – left to right – the brown of the lichen-dyed wool from a few days ago), the green-yellow of the Tansy-dyed wool and the tan of the undyed wool.

~

three shanks of wool, dyed with the lichen Usnea (left), dyed with Tansy (center) and raw wool (treated with alum)

three shanks of wool, dyed with the lichen Usnea (left), dyed with Tansy (center) and raw wool (treated with alum)

~

I wrote my poem to the heady yet sleepy smells of the Tansy boiling in its dye pot.  I remembered the living Tansy, growing in the ditch last summer, each flower cluster hiding a sleepy bumblebee that had to be shaken from its resting.  I was also reminded in my reading that Tansy was used so often at funerals in New England in the 19th century that people associated its smell with death.

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Tansy in the ditch

Tansy in the ditch

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sleep before dyeing

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Tanacetum vulgare L. – Common Tansy, Mugwort, Bitter Buttons

 ~

Bitter Buttons hover in the dye pot

simmering on the kitchen stove

drowsy scent of camomile

camphor and rosemary

liquid amber, saffron sallow

jaundiced pale of Tansy

reclines in the roadside ditch

each flat-topped cluster

hibernaculum

for a furred and yellow

unconcerned

and mellow

bumblebee

~

~

Copyright  2014   Jane Tims 

Written by jane tims

April 7, 2014 at 7:00 am

10 Responses

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  1. I think I’m almost as excited as you are to see your results. I love the colors you’re getting from your harvested plants. They have a subtle beauty to them.

    Like

    Robin

    April 8, 2014 at 6:50 pm

    • Hi. It will be bewildering once the plants get growing. I expect my kitchen will turn into a kind of drying room… Jane

      Like

      jane tims

      April 9, 2014 at 8:31 am

  2. It’s fun to see how the dye made from one of the plants you gathered turned out. I like the color. Natural dyes can create so many lovely beige and brown shades.

    Like

    Sheryl

    April 7, 2014 at 10:31 pm

    • Hi. Next is birch bark. From my reading, I expect everything from brown to red. We’ll see. Jane

      Like

      jane tims

      April 9, 2014 at 8:30 am

  3. Liquid amber, saffron sallow – so perfect. Your description of the tansy in the dye pot hums with vibrancy. Love the pictures and the poem.

    Like

    francisguenette

    April 7, 2014 at 12:51 pm

  4. Wonderful, wonderful – truly wonderful!!!

    Like

    weedimageoftheday

    April 7, 2014 at 10:56 am

    • Hi. Thanks! Those weeds of yours would probably yield some interesting colours! Jane

      Like

      jane tims

      April 9, 2014 at 8:27 am

  5. I love these blogs about dyes, and the plants and flowers the dyes come from, along with the tastes, colours and fragrances conjured by the poems. I’m so looking forward to this publication when the book comes out. May it be soon.

    Like

    Carol Steel

    April 7, 2014 at 10:55 am

    • Hi Carol. Thanks for the encouragement. It’s one thing about writing. There is a creative side which I love. Then there is the administrative side – sending out proposals and so on … not so much fun. Jane

      Like

      jane tims

      April 9, 2014 at 8:26 am


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