nichepoetryandprose

poetry and prose about place

comforting Comfrey brown

with 10 comments


As I try using various plants as a source of dye, I am realising how many shades of brown there are !!!

~

Over the weekend, I did a dye vat of Comfrey.  Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) is a flowering plant often found in older gardens.  It is a useful plant for gardeners … as a fertilizer, it contributes impressive amounts of nitrogen  and potassium.  As a compost component, it adds heat and moisture, and helps to speed up the composting process.  In the past, Comfrey was recommended as a tea and a medicinal.  However, the plant contains alkaloids.  Taken internally, these can cause severe damage to the liver and, in Canada, the sale of products containing Comfrey is prohibited.

~

Comfrey grows in large clumps of linear leaves, up to a meter tall.  Its stately foliage provides a great backdrop for smaller plants.  Later in the season, it will produce curved clusters of bluish-purple flowers.

~

Comfrey in my garden

Comfrey in my garden

~

The underside of each Comfrey leaf is a maze of raised veins …

~

leaves of Comfrey, showing the veins on the underside of each leaf

leaves of Comfrey, showing the veins on the underside of each leaf

~

To make the dye, I added the leaves, coarsely chopped, to 6 liters of water.  I couldn’t resist throwing in my rusty square nail, to add a touch of iron to the mix …

~

Comfrey leaves in water, cut up and ready for the boil

Comfrey leaves in water, cut up and ready for the boil

~

After boiling for an hour, I had a pale apricot-coloured liquid …

~

pale apricot colour of the Comfrey dye

pale apricot colour of the Comfrey dye

~

I strained and discarded the leaves (in my compost of course) and allowed the liquid to cool.  Then I added some of my wool roving, pre-treated with alum, and simmered the wool for about an hour.

~

The result was yet another shade of brown, so similar, yet so different from the browns I obtained from Alder, Old Man’s Beard lichen and Tansy …

~

various dyes on wool roving (left to right): Alder bark, Old Man's Beard lichen, Comfrey, Tansy and a glimpse of Beet

various dyes on wool roving (left to right): Alder bark, Old Man’s Beard lichen, Comfrey, Tansy and a glimpse of Beet

~

The Comfrey brown is a brown of the forest, without the orange or yellow undertones of the other browns I have made.  This is the brown of the wild rabbit I saw in our driveway last week.  It is the buff brown of the heads of Pine Siskins visiting our bird feeders in winter.  This brown reminds me of soft mitten wool and caterpillar cocoons.  From Comfrey comes a very comforting brown.

~

Although I could use my wool roving ‘as is’ in my weaving, I have decided to spin the wool.  First, of course, I have to learn to spin.  A maple drop spindle should be waiting in my mailbox later in the week.  So many projects … good thing the days are getting longer !!!

~

Copyright  2014  Jane Tims

Written by jane tims

June 11, 2014 at 7:06 am

10 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Your posts are helping me learn how to discriminate between (and appreciate) the many different delicate shades of brown.

    Like

    Sheryl

    June 12, 2014 at 12:45 am

    • Hi Sheryl. Thanks! Now if I could only create some shades of green! Jane

      Like

      jane tims

      June 12, 2014 at 11:11 am

      • I never thought about it until you mentioned it, but with so much green in nature, it’s somewhat surprising that it’s difficult to find a plant that will make a green dye.

        Like

        Sheryl

        June 14, 2014 at 7:44 pm

      • Hi Sheryl. I think the chlorophylls must be hard to capture. I did manage some green this past weekend (upcoming post). Jane

        Like

        jane tims

        June 17, 2014 at 9:57 am

  2. You do have a lot of projects going on! It is amazing how many shades of brown they are, and how some are more appealing than others. One of my favorite dresses as a child was a lovely shade of brown, but most of the browns I come across are rather blah… I can see why you find the comfrey shade so comforting.

    Like

    Barbara Rodgers

    June 11, 2014 at 12:26 pm

    • Hi Barbara. Comfrey, comfort, a poem in the making. Next is lupin … I wonder what shade of brown it will make!!!! Jane

      Like

      jane tims

      June 12, 2014 at 11:10 am

  3. Wow! Spinning wool? What an adventure!

    Like

    weedimageoftheday

    June 11, 2014 at 11:07 am

    • Hi. Instruction on the Internet makes anything possible! Now, the truth will be in the balls of wool I spin. I expect, at the best, knobbley yarn. Jane

      Like

      jane tims

      June 12, 2014 at 11:08 am

  4. You always have so many projects on the go. And whatever you write, there is music, a lilting cadence, the comfort of repetition of words and sounds, a poetic rhythm. You make the world a more wonderful place because you’re in it.

    Like

    Carol Steel

    June 11, 2014 at 9:07 am

    • Hi Carol. What a nice thing to say!!! I’ll just say that you are one of my influences. I loved your poem and you read well! Jane

      Like

      jane tims

      June 12, 2014 at 11:06 am


I'd love to hear what you think...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: